Ned Lamont, governor-elect, talks tolls, schools, business

The Bulletin’s sister paper the Darien Times recently submitted a series of questions to Connecticut’s governor-elect, Ned Lamont. Below are the questions and his answers, published unedited. Topics included tolls, school district aid, and making the state business friendly and more unified geographically and politically.

Question: Can you explain what you agree with or disagree with Dan Malloy’s approach to state leadership?

Lamont: We are very different people and we will be very different governors.

Question: How do you expect to unify and make the state successful?

Lamont: The Connecticut I know is one where people are united by our basic values: we want good jobs with fair wages, access to affordable, high-quality health care, homes that we can afford, and a brighter future for all of our children. The best way to achieve these goals is to revitalize our economy and restart job growth. Labor and business, cities and suburbs, Republicans and Democrats — we’re all in this together. I’ve brought people together throughout my career in business, and I’ll do it again as Governor.

Question: What is your viewpoint on wealthier vs. lower income school districts in terms of state aid? Do you feel all students deserve the same rights? Do you feel median income determines what communities can afford?

Lamont: Every child in Connecticut deserves a high-quality public education. Unfortunately, our state has not met this commitment to our children. As a result, Connecticut has one of the largest achievement gaps between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds of any state in the country, lagging far behind peer states with similar student populations. That’s not just morally unacceptable — it’s an impediment to revitalizing Connecticut’s economy and bringing broadly-shared prosperity to our state. State education funding needs to be predictable, sustainable, and sufficient to provide an excellent public education to children in all of our communities. Resolving our fiscal crisis so that we can sustainably finance investments in our public schools is my number one priority as governor.

Question: What is your viewpoint on affordable housing in Connecticut?

Lamont: Connecticut’s challenge is to preserve what makes our towns such great places to call home, while ensuring that sky-high housing prices don’t keep young people, new entrepreneurs, and working families locked out of success in our state. My administration will work with local leaders around the state to encourage the responsible development of a wide range of housing options in every community. Business leaders have made clear to me that when their companies consider moving to or away from Connecticut, one of their primary concerns is whether their employees will be able to afford a nearby home.

Question: Fairfield County residents feel disenfranchised. The state is very different income wise. I understand it is difficult to juggle different areas and demographics. How do you plan on doing so?

Lamont: Our 169 cities and towns are diverse. As governor, my door will be open to all of them — and I’ll be on the road just as I was on the campaign trail, meeting people in their communities and learning from local leaders about local needs. I’ve lived in Fairfield County for four decades. I know the local issues well and understand that every region of our state makes important contributions and has unique needs. As governor, I will be attentive to our state’s diversity while ensuring every city and town is respected and represented in Hartford.

Question: In terms of tax increases, statewide tax and tolls, what can you say to make those who think they need to move out of state feel comfortable staying? Can you explain your plan?

Lamont: While there is a lot of work to be done to improve our state’s economy and to stabilize our budget, Connecticut remains the state with the best quality-of-life anywhere in our country. That’s why I’m proud to be Connecticut’s next governor.

I will work hard every day to resolve our state’s long-term fiscal crisis and help grow the economy, and I hope that all of our residents can partner with us as we make these hard decisions. I won’t be able to turn Connecticut around in one year or one budget. But I will give the state a roadmap to fiscal stability and economic growth — one that families, towns, and businesses can plan around. By making the hard decisions, I know that we can reinvest in our communities and in our state and continue to improve our strong quality-of-life.

Our state’s fiscal crisis has meant higher taxes, fewer jobs, and less population growth. We’ve spent year after year paying for the mistakes of our past, compounding those errors in the present, and failing as a result to invest in our future. I won’t accept more of the same. My first budget will be responsibly balanced, without relying on gimmicks or short-term patches. It will preserve our ability to make critical investments in education and infrastructure, while holding the line on taxes.

Question: How are you trying to make Connecticut a business friendly state?

Lamont: I’ll be the first Connecticut governor in decades who has started up and run a business — so I come into office with a fundamentally different perspective than my predecessors. Revitalizing Connecticut’s economy starts with the tone from the top. I’ve been engaging our state’s business leaders on the campaign trail and during my gubernatorial transition, and will continue to have a robust dialogue with the business community as governor. From there, I have plans to reduce or eliminate the business taxes and regulations that make Connecticut uncompetitive with our neighbors, and to aggressively campaign to recruit and retain vibrant businesses in Connecticut.

Question: How do you console those concerned about tolls impacting their lives and businesses?

Lamont: We can’t have a 21st Century economy with a deficient 20th Century transportation system: we must improve the roads and bridges that people rely on to get to work and that businesses depend on to move goods throughout the state. Moving Connecticut forward requires better infrastructure that reliably connects Connecticut’s communities to each other, the region and the world. That is why my plan levies electronic tolls on heavy trucks, which cause disproportionate damage to our roads without paying their fair share for upkeep and improvements. I voted for this year’s constitutional amendment to end the raiding of our transportation fund, and will be committed to state budgets that don’t drain investments in our infrastructure to patch over deficits.

Question: Do you plan to encourage Fairfield County state reps to make sure that their communities’ voices are heard, even if they share two communities that are very different demographics?

Lamont: No matter where they live, residents of Connecticut all want leaders who will fight for decent jobs that can support our families, build a better life for our children, and secure our futures in retirement. As governor, my first priority will be resolving Connecticut’s fiscal crisis so that we can make critical investments in education, infrastructure, and workforce development. I will work with every state legislator to help us build that future together, and my door will always be open to representatives of every community in our state.

Question: Fundamentally, as a Fairfield County paper, the thing I hear most is that the state government is happy and eager to take their money but disinterested in their concerns or problems. Do you plan on addressing that or fixing that as a Fairfield County resident?

Lamont: I’ve lived in Fairfield County for four decades; Annie and I raised our kids here. I have a clear understanding of the issues important to the families and communities in this area of the state. As governor, I will serve every community in Connecticut.