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CT Gov. Lamont Focuses On Budget, Economy In Address

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont

Ned Lamont was sworn-in Wednesday as Connecticut’s governor along with members of the state legislature and constitutional officeholders. The Democrat focused most of his first State of the State address on improving Connecticut’s economy.

“This is our chance to reinvent Connecticut,” Lamont told those gathered at the State Capitol. “To think big and act boldly.”

Lamont, a 65-year-old former businessman, told state lawmakers in Hartford that his main priority entering his four-year term is to get Connecticut’s economy moving again. Touting defense contractors Electric Boat and Sikorsky – two of the state’s largest employers – Lamont says Connecticut must return to its inventive roots.

“Over the last generation, Connecticut’s entrepreneurial zip has slipped a bit,” Lamont said. “We’re no longer a place that is viewed as hospitable or encouraging to new businesses.”

In order to attract businesses and invest in an educated workforce, Lamont says his term cannot be defined by fiscal crisis – touching on subjects that cast a shadow over much of his predecessor’s eight years in office. Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy frequently clashed with lawmakers over balancing the state budget and in 2016 General Electric announced it was moving its headquarters out of state, from Fairfield to Boston. In the new fiscal year that begins July 1, the state is projected to have a roughly $2 billion deficit.

“Let’s fix the damn budget once and for all, are you with me?” Lamont asked lawmakers who responded with applause.

Listen to Governor Ned Lamont's first State of State address

Lamont says he intends to present the Democratically-controlled legislature with a balanced budget in six weeks. Offering few details of that spending plan, the Democrat did say local governments need to be more efficient.

“So many services and back-office functions could be delivered at a much lower cost and much more efficiently if they’re operated on a shared or regional basis,” Lamont said. “We will break down those silos and engage in bulk purchasing – everything from healthcare to technology. The taxpayers of our state can no longer afford to subsidize inefficiency.”

In order to make Connecticut conducive to business and therein improve the state’s fiscal standing, Lamont says it should pursue transportation improvements and invest in urban centers.

“That means great schools, safe streets and making our cities the first 5G in New England,” Lamont said.

Lamont is also calling for wifi internet access in all town squares.

“I’m going to take the lead in investing in the first all-digital government,” the governor said. “Reverse-engineer every transaction for the taxpayers’ shoes. The entry point to e-Connecticut will be through a digital front door, a one-stop-shop for everything our citizen needs.”

Finally, Lamont highlighted an expansion of paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage as aspects of a modern workforce.

Taking the office in Hartford marks a return to politics for Lamont, who defeated incumbent U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman in a high-profile Democratic primary in 2006. Lieberman, running as an independent, went on to beat Lamont in the general election. Lamont bested Republican Bob Stefanowski and independent Oz Griebel in November’s gubernatorial election.

Also sworn-in Wednesday was new Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org