Gov­er­nor-elect faces state’s fis­cal trou­bles

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Em­i­lie Mun­son

HART­FORD — Em­pow­ered by an­other Demo­cratic tri­fecta and the largest leg­isla­tive ma­jor­ity since 2012, Gov­er­nor-elect Ned La­mont is armed with sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal, but also the weight of a state verg­ing on fis­cal melt­down.

Af­ter hours of wait­ing, La­mont emerged vic­to­ri­ous Wed­nes­day morn­ing, win­ning by a slim 18,530 votes ac­cord­ing to un­of­fi­cial re­sults.

Along with La­mont, 24 Demo­cratic state se­na­tors and 92 state rep­re­sen­ta­tives will take of­fice in Jan­uary, hand­ing them a hefty twothirds ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, which was pre­vi­ously tied.

And while Gov. Dan­nel P. Malloy has at times had a bristling re­la­tion­ship with his leg­isla­tive part­ners, La­mont em­pha­sized Wed­nes­day his ad­min­is­tra­tion will be fo­cused on “work­ing to­gether” with Democrats and Repub­li­cans, la­bor and busi­ness lead­ers, and even his op­po­nent Repub­li­can Bob Ste­fanowski to bring change to Con­necti­cut.

“I’m go­ing to be reach­ing out to our Demo­cratic ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate and I am go­ing to tell them some­thing very clear,” said La­mont, ad­dress­ing the pub­lic for the first time as gov­er­nor-elect at the Hart­ford Yard Goats’ Dunkin’ Donuts Park. “We are proud of our Demo­cratic val­ues and what we stand for here in Con­necti­cut, but we also know we have a prob­lem we have to solve. We have a fis­cal prob­lem we have to solve, and I am go­ing to get the best ideas I can from any­body to get this fis­cal cri­sis be­hind us.”

Af­ter a nail-bit­ing elec­tion in which al­most 645,000 cast bal­lots for Ste­fanowski, a can­di­date whose pri­mary cam­paign pledge was to elim­i­nate the per­sonal in­come tax, La­mont ad­mit­ted that rais­ing taxes to solve Con­necti­cut’s fis­cal straits will be a recipe for in­tense un­pop­u­lar­ity.

“We’re not go­ing to raise the in­come tax,” said La­mont. “We’re go­ing to slowly re­duce the prop­erty tax over a pe­riod of time. I am go­ing

to do ev­ery­thing I can to put elec­tronic tolls just on the trac­tor trailer trucks and noth­ing else go­ing for­ward, and we are go­ing to get an hon­estly bal­anced bud­get that in­vests in the fu­ture.”

His­tor­i­cally high turnout, wet bal­lots, long lines in cities and some mi­nor con­tro­versy over “elec­tion ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties” de­layed a fi­nal call in the Con­necti­cut gov­er­nor’s race un­til Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

Ste­fanowski con­ceded to La­mont a lit­tle be­fore 9 a.m. Wed­nes­day, then called in to the Chaz and AJ ra­dio show on clas­sic-rock sta­tion WPLR, where he wished suc­cess to the state — and La­mont.

“He won fair and square,” Ste­fanowski said on the ra­dio.

La­mont in­di­cated he will work with Ste­fanowski to solve the state’s bud­get cri­sis.

“Af­ter a long cam­paign, he could not have been more gra­cious, and I could not be more ap­pre­cia­tive,” La­mont said.

Asked if he would con­sider run­ning again, Ste­fanowski said he’s not rul­ing it out, but needs time to de­com­press.

Ad­dress­ing the state’s pro­jected $2 bil­lion bud­get deficit in the next fis­cal year will be at the top of the to-do list for La­mont and leg­is­la­tors when they re­turn to the Capi­tol on Jan. 9 to be­gin craft­ing the state’s next twoyear bud­get.

“I sus­pect there will be some changes in tax pol­icy, but whether that in­cludes in­creases re­mains to be seen,” said Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore Martin Looney, D-New Haven.

La­mont, Looney and Demo­cratic lead­ers of the House all spoke fa­vor­ably on some form of high­way tolling to bring rev­enue to the state.

Pass­ing toll leg­is­la­tion was a par­tic­u­lar pri­or­ity of Speaker of the House Joe Ares­i­mow­icz, D-Ber­lin, in 2018, but Democrats did not have enough sup­port in the 80-71 House to call the bill for a vote. He re­peated the need to find money to re­place fail­ing trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture when speak­ing to re­porters at the Capi­tol on Wed­nes­day.

Malloy, who ap­proved a $10 mil­lion toll study in July, gave this dire warn­ing to Con­necti­cut’s next lead­ers on Wed­nes­day: “Within two years, the state will be un­able to sell bonds un­less it finds ad­di­tional rev­enue for trans­porta­tion. That’s not a threat, that’s the re­al­ity.”

Be­sides some tolling and rais­ing the state’s $10.10 min­i­mum wage — an­other key pri­or­ity for the gov­er­nor, Se­nate and House lead­ers — some of the top items will de­pend on the will of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly’s new­est mem­bers.

“I’m go­ing to wait un­til I hear from the cau­cus,” said Ares­i­mow­icz, who won his race by only 38 votes.

Of the 92 Demo­cratic state rep­re­sen­ta­tives who were elected, 24 will be newly elected, in­clud­ing 12 women.

“It is a di­verse cau­cus,” said Ares­i­mow­icz.

In Fair­field County, House Democrats were sur­prised by sev­eral vic­to­ries over Repub­li­cans by can­di­dates Anne Hughes of Eas­ton, Raghib Al­lie-Bren­nan of Bethel, Lucy Dathan of Nor­walk, and Stephen Meskers of Greenwich, who broke Repub­li­cans’ cen­tury-long hold on the three Greenwich House seats by de­feat­ing Rep. Mike Bocchino.

Se­nate Democrats also ex­ceeded their ex­pec­ta­tions by win­ning five new seats, grow­ing the cau­cus to 24, said Looney. Women will be 10 of the Se­nate Democrats in 2019.

Se­nate Democrats also pulled off big up­sets in Fair­field County, most no­tably the vic­tory of 22-year-old Will Haskell over Repub­li­can Toni Boucher of Wil­ton, along with Julie Kush­ner in Dan­bury, and Alexan­dra Berg­stein of Greenwich.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Gov­er­nor-elect Ned La­mont.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Gov­er­nor-elect Ned La­mont and Lt. Gov­er­nor-elect Su­san Bysiewicz cel­e­brate their vic­tory at Dunkin Donuts Park in Hart­ford on Wed­nes­day

Gov­er­nor-elect Ned La­mont hugs his wife, An­nie, af­ter bring­ing his fam­ily on stage fol­low­ing his vic­tory at Dunkin Donuts Park in Hart­ford on Wed­nes­day.

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