Video: State comptroller is optimistic but cautious, he tells locals

Expressing optimism over the state’s potential, while cautioning that fixing the state’s financial woes will not be easy, State of Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo shared his insights to the a luncheon gathering at the Country Club of New Canaan on Wednesday, May 31. The public event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

The fiscal guardian of the state and possible candidate for governor gave a financial state of the state speech with optimistic notes that may seem hard to reach, since the next day his Office of Policy and Management (OPM) projected that the general fund will end fiscal year 2017 operations with a deficit of $322.7 million. Grim, but this is an improvement of $67.1 million compared to the general fund's position a month earlier. The improvement resulted from “May 10th rescissions and other lapse savings,” his press release said. At the talk, he characterized his job as looking for change under the cushions.

Lembo mixed his desire to cut spending with his optimism about the potential of the economy and the strength of manufacturing. (Click here for video boasting the strength of manufacturing).

The comptroller said he wants the government to start the hard work of getting the state’s fiscal house in order by acting on issues where political leaders agree. (Click here to watch the video where he says failure can not be an option.)

Who wants to leave a party?

He echoes the oft-expressed sentiment that the state needs to lure and hold onto workers, especially college graduates and successful companies. He hopes to keep and attract people of all ages by having hubs where people can go to socialize. He reasons, that people will want to stay if there are places for the 50-plus crowd and the 20-somethings to enjoy themselves. (Click here to hear him talk about urban environments.)

Lembo wants to encourage companies to stay by helping them solve problems. A company may need communications and technical infrastructure, but the state administration too seldom asks  leaders of companies for ways that the state can help the companies thrive. He said he has helped a company get updated communications infrastructure to help the company move more facilities to Connecticut.

Not so easy

Known for being a data wonk, he said there are changing trends that are taking place in the state. He argues that answers are not as pat and easy as some pundits suggest, such as simply lowering taxes for businesses and the wealthy. One trend he cited is that seniors are seeking more help. (Click here to watch to video about Title 19 requests.)

Lembo knows that the fiscal problems will be a challenge, his office announced that the budget reserve fund has a current balance of $235,582,921, which is not sufficient to cover the current General Fund deficit projection.

In spite of the state’s difficulties he has been open about undertaking an exploratory campaign for governor.