SOUTHINGTON â€“ State Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman gave a â€śstate of the stateâ€ť update during the Southington Chamber of Commerceâ€™s 83rd annual meeting at Manor Inn Thursday.
Lehman said Connecticut â€śstruck a balanceâ€ť in keeping as much of the economy open as it could during the pandemic.
â€śUnlike Massachusetts and New York, which were much more draconian about shutting down everything, we kept as much going as we could,â€ť he said.
Lehman said 70% of the Connecticut population has received at least one vaccine and he hopes this number increases to 75% or 85%. With this much of the populace being vaccinated, he said Gov. Ned Lamont feels confident the state can fully reopen by May 19. Massachusetts, he noted, would not be fully open until August.
Lehman said while Connecticut ranks among the states with the highest incomes, it ranks toward the bottom in the country with job growth. This is something Lamont hopes to address by creating an â€śinnovation corridorâ€ť â€“ lab science buildings in the stateâ€™s largest cities like New Haven. He said while Connecticut has the fourth highest patents on a per capita basis, most of those jobs end up going to New York. Lehman said the â€śinnovation corridorâ€ť is intended to encourage them to remain in state.
Another issue facing the state is it has created a lot of â€ślong-term liability,â€ť which he estimated would take 30 to 40 years to fix. However, the state does have $3.8 billion in its rainy day fund, which he said is among the best in the region. The stateâ€™s credit rating was also increased this year for the first time in two decades.
Lehman said, while the state â€śhas not grown the population in ages,â€ť during the pandemic, some 20,000 people have relocated to Connecticut from New York, New Jersey and California.
â€śThis is population growth like we have not seen in 15 years,â€ť he said.
As the state budget shapes up, Lehman said with $6 billion allocated to Connecticut from the federal government, the governor does not want to raise taxes with this budget.
â€śThe legislature has put forth a budget with a suggested tax increase but the governor has said he will not sign it,â€ť he said. â€śHe feels that this is not the time to raise taxes. We donâ€™t need the money and itâ€™s not the right message to send to people who might be considering bringing their factory to Connecticut.â€ť