A State budget package approval for the coming year means a victory for families and municipalities. With this approval comes savings for families of $655 on their tax bill.

A State budget package approval for the coming year means a victory for families and municipalities. With this approval comes savings for families of $655 on their tax bill. The approval also provides a state budget that has kept its commitment to education and health care programs, which stems from a two-year budget that was approved in 1999. This action came as a result of bipartisan State Senate members working together on the second year of the 1999-2001 state budget and tax package.

Simply, this means nearly $200 million in new tax cuts, increased support for education, environmental protection, open space preservation, senior services and much-needed financial support for area towns. All eleven towns, which comprise the 17th and 34th Districts will receive state funding, which is an unencumbered windfall in revenue sharing that is over and above what was approved for towns last year. The money comes from the state's surplus.

"This is great news for towns. The idea behind this encumbered money is that if the towns invest in this state revenue sharing in local projects or programs, everyone benefits," said Sen. Brian McDermott, D-34, deputy president pro-tempore.

Among the new tax cuts that are on the horizon for families include exemptions to sales tax and college textbook sales tax, and a seven-cent gas tax reduction. Parents will be able to purchase back-to-school clothes for their children and save money on taxes through a "sales tax holiday" that was added to the tax package and slated to go into effect at the end of this summer. Another promise kept by the Senate was an increase in property tax credit that will rise from the current rate of $425 to $500.

"Tax cuts that help working families were one of my top priorities this session, and I'm pleased to announce that we have indeed delivered," said Sen. Joseph J. Crisco, D-17. "We delivered on all of that this year, and more."

"I am very proud of what we have done in the General Assembly during this session," Crisco said, "further reducing the tax burden on Connecticut residents, particularly for working families and families with school-aged children." Crisco serves as the chair on the Legislature's budget-writing Appropriations Committee, and chair of the Appropriations' Legislative subcommittee.

"This is money from the surplus that we are spending in a variety of ways," said McDermott. "It is my hope that the towns spend the money on a one-time expenditure."

Many towns could use the money to improve existing areas or build new playgrounds, parks, playscapes, linear trails or other community projects.

"The money is unrestricted. It's a one-time shot for the towns," said Crisco. "I'm in touch with the mayors and town councils, but it's up to them as how best to use it," said Crisco, referring to the surplus money. Families who are preparing to set aside money for next year's school clothing budget will see some light at the end of the tunnel. The "sales tax holiday" is slated for the third week of August to help parents with school clothing and footwear costs.

The budget and tax package, which got both the Senate and House of Representatives nod of approval, will go to the Governor for signing.