Lamont: Focus ‘More on Recovery, Less on Rescue’
Gov. Ned Lamont opened his second term in office declaring that economic growth was his administration’s fiscal priority “because growth is the precondition to opportunity.”
Speaking before a joint session of the General Assembly at the state Capitol Jan. 4, the newly inaugurated governor emphasized continued fiscal discipline, making Connecticut more affordable, and addressing the worker shortage.
Lamont called fiscal stability “the foundation to growth,” indirectly acknowledging pressure from some lawmakers to weaken or overturn the bipartisan reforms implemented in the 2017 state budget—the foundation for the state’s current financial health.
“The era of Connecticut’s permanent fiscal crisis is over,” he told lawmakers. “It’s over as long as we maintain the same fiscal discipline that served us so well over the last four years.”
Lamont said that while he still worries “like heck about COVID, I worry even more that we will lose this opportunity as a state and as a country to lift families up.”
“The next four years should focus more on recovery, less on rescue, less need for lifelines, and more focus on ladders,” he said.
“Keep our economy growing, making sure that growth means a ladder to opportunity for everyone regardless of background or zip code.”
Lamont acknowledged the connection between the state’s high cost of living and its economic struggles, calling for middle-class tax cuts and relief from healthcare and energy costs.
“But the biggest slam to our affordability and economic growth is housing, or the lack thereof,” he said.
“Every business thinking about moving or expanding repeats over and over, ‘Even if you had the workforce, there is no place for them to live.’
“Connecticut towns and cities, you tell us where developers can build more housing so more housing can be built faster, at less cost, and local control will determine how and where it is built.
“Our future is more local businesses and more housing options in your downtown—walk to work or take faster public transit.”
Lamont also acknowledged the impact of Connecticut’s slow population growth on the state’s economic growth prospects.
“We have 100,000 jobs going begging in our state. Why is that?” he said.
“One, a smaller share of our working age population is working. Two, Our population is growing but growing too slowly.
“And many of these unfilled jobs require extra training.”
Lamont added that as a business person, “I see opportunity through the lens of starting small businesses and helping them grow.”
“But innovation doesn’t begin and end in the private sector and I want all of our state employees to be empowered to innovate as well,” he said.
“We rely too much on subsidies instead of innovation to provide better service at less cost.”
The governor will present his proposed two-year state budget to lawmakers next month.
CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said Lamont’s address “laid a good framework for where we want to go.”
“His call for more bipartisan, innovative solutions is critical for moving our economy forward,” DiPentima said.
“Hopefully he will get behind some of CBIA’s Transform Connecticut policy solutions because they are necessary to support the foundation that he laid out.”
DiPentima added that the business community fully supports Lamont’s call to protect and extend the fiscal guardrails enacted in 2017.
“We’ve got to make sure the revenue cap, the bonding cap, the spending cap, the volatility cap all stay in place,” he said. “That’s given us the rainy day fund we have today.”
CBIA vice president of public policy Eric Gjede noted that a bipartisan group of lawmakers representing almost half the state legislature support the Transform Connecticut policy solutions.
“Those policies focus on addressing the factors behind the worker shortage, including slow population growth, the cost of living and doing business, and the need to expand career pathways and opportunities for all,” he said.
“The fact that he highlighted in his speech a lot of the issues that we have been raising means that the governor is listening.”
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