HARTFORD - Connecticutâ€™s newly sworn-in governor, Ned Lamont, outlined his hopes and goals for the next four years Wednesday afternoon when he addressed the General Assembly at the state Capitol.
â€śLetâ€™s fix the damn budget once and for all. You with me?â€ť the Democratic governor asked legislators from both parties.
Lamontâ€™s first State of the State address bore the simple message that Connecticutâ€™s fiscal situation must be dealt with head-on during the 2019 legislative session.
People on both sides of the chamber stood and applauded when the stateâ€™s 89th governor talked about his eagerness to balance the budget.
â€śIn six weeks, I will present you with a budget which is in balance not just for a year but for the foreseeable future, so that mayors and selectmen, business and labor leaders, teachers and police officers know what to expect. And together we will deliver on what we say: a budget on time, honest and balanced,â€ť Lamont said. â€śHowever, I want to be clear - no more funny math or budgetary gamesmanship. I come from the world of small business where the numbers have to add up at the end of the month or the lights go out.â€ť
But, as he did in his inauguration speech earlier in the day, Lamont said his term as governor would not be defined by the stateâ€™s fiscal situation. He pointed to improving the stateâ€™s transportation system, updating Connecticutâ€™s technological infrastructure and websites for the â€śfirst all-digital governmentâ€ť and for attracting talent as some of his other ideas to strengthen the economy. He emphasized building a workforce for the future and thanked the stateâ€™s teachers for educating Connecticutâ€™s young people.
The chamber became visually divided when Lamont brought up two of his other agenda items as governor.
â€śThat also means bringing not just the workforce into the 21st century, but bringing the workplace into the 21st century, and that starts with making paid family leave a reality for all of our families,â€ť Lamont said. â€śA 21st century workplace also means moving to a $15 minimum wage, responsibly and over time, so that those same parents can afford to provide for their children without working three jobs.â€ť
State Rep. Rick Lopes, D-New Britain, who will be running in the special election to fill state Sen. Terry Gerratanaâ€™s 6th District seat, said it was an â€śinspiringâ€ť speech. Gerratana will be joining the governorâ€™s administration as an adviser.
â€śI think he hit upon all of the major issues the people of Connecticut are worrying about and itâ€™s a good blueprint to move forward,â€ť Lopes said after the speech.
State Rep. William Petit Jr., R-Plainville, said he â€śliked the toneâ€ť of the governorâ€™s speech and said it displayed a positive outlook. He said he had concerns, however.
â€śA lot of the businesses Iâ€™ve spoken to feel that an increase to $15 an hour wonâ€™t be helpful,â€ť Petit said. â€śIt might cause them to cut hours or positions, at small businesses especially.â€ť
State Rep. Bobby Sanchez, D-New Britain, recently named co-chairman of the legislatureâ€™s Education Committee, said he would have liked to hear the governor speak more about early childhood education. The representative was still happy to hear Lamont speak about education in general and mention supporting teachers.
â€śIâ€™m optimistic. Iâ€™m hoping that Iâ€™ll be able to sit down with him to talk about preschool education,â€ť Sanchez said. â€śIâ€™m also glad he wants to connect education to businesses and do more manufacturing, I think thatâ€™s a good way to go.â€ť
Sanchez said he fully supports paid family leave but would like to see more research on how a $15 minimum wage would affect businesses. He said heâ€™s also heard from small businesses concerned with what it would mean for them.
â€śIâ€™m going to be doing a lot of listening,â€ť Sanchez said.
New Britainâ€™s current longest-serving legislator, Democratic state Rep. Peter Tercyak, said he liked that Lamont mentioned both small businesses and large employers in his speech. The representative was also happy to hear something heâ€™s often advocated for: paid family leave.
â€śEarned family medical leave - thank you very much,â€ť Tercyak said.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.