Governor Lamont's 2019 State of the State Address
2019 State of the State Address
Governor Ned Lamont
State Capitol, Hall of the House of Representatives
January 9, 2019
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Senator Fasano, Representative Klarides, my fellow state officials, members of the General Assembly and the Judicial Branch, Lt. Governor Bysiewicz, honored guests and the people of the great State of Connecticut.
Thank you for welcoming me to the room where it happens.
I am especially proud to be here with my family, Annie, Emily, Lindsay and Teddy – sometimes it gets pretty feisty at the Lamont dinner table, we are not shy. But at the end of the day we are family. I feel the same about the State of Connecticut.
To Dan Malloy: Many thanks for your decades of public service and leadership to our state.
And to Nancy Wyman, we’re going to keep you busy, that’s for sure.
I see my friend George Jepsen in the front row – you will be right across the street, so I know where to find you.
Because we are just getting started.
A few weeks ago, Susan and I joined a couple thousand Connecticut high school students at the Bushnell for a performance of Hamilton. Before the curtain went up, we discussed with the students the meaning of my favorite song, “My Shot” sung by a young Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant teenager from the Caribbean, “young, scrappy and hungry” like the nation he is joining – and how he is not going to throw away his shot.
What I love about America is that in every generation we get a chance to reinvent ourselves, and every election gives us a fresh start. This is our chance to reinvent Connecticut, to think big and act boldly.
And it starts right here in the room where it happens.
The Connecticut We Once Were
Connecticut has always been the state where it happens.
Connecticut is inventive:
- We shaped the defense industry with the invention of the world’s first submarine in Old Saybrook, and then reinvented it with the world’s first nuclear submarine in Groton.
- We revolutionized multiple industries through the invention of rubber that could withstand both heat and cold in Naugatuck.
- We redefined the workplace with the invention of the portable typewriter in Stamford.
- The world’s first helicopter was designed and piloted by Igor Sikorsky right here in Stratford.
A century later, Sikorsky’s factory is still here and Electric Boat remains the largest submarine manufacturer in the world, and they are two of Connecticut’s largest employers – a proud piece of Connecticut’s history.
But over the last generation, Connecticut’s entrepreneurial zip has slipped. We are no longer a place that is viewed as hospitable or encouraging to new businesses.
Connecticut, it’s time to return to our inventive and entrepreneurial roots. Our future lies in doubling down on what makes us great and reimagining our unique potential. And it starts with the best educated workforce in the world.
I always made it a point to visit our schools, because it was important to me to keep my eye on the future.
My first stop in Bridgeport was Harding High, where I helped out many years ago, and whose band just lead our parade to the State Capitol. Their old high school was pretty beat up, but you should have seen the excitement in the eyes of the students, and their parents and teachers, on opening day at the new Harding High. The custodians told me something interesting – the old Harding was a mess at the end of the day, but the new Harding was still pretty neat by day’s end.
In showing the students that we believed in them, they showed pride in themselves, and their school.
I saw the same optimism and pride at the new Career Academy in Waterbury, where nearly 98 percent of the students graduate. Many of these students go on to great colleges, but many go on to apprenticeships in healthcare and advanced manufacturing. These are Connecticut jobs for Connecticut students.
And I saw that same sense of optimism in the eyes of the students that I taught at Central Connecticut State University for 12 years.
My favorite day during the campaign was at UConn, where we saw three Blackhawk helicopters flying low overhead. We all ran to check out the action and saw the choppers landing at the School of Engineering. It was a Sikorsky job recruitment drive, encouraging Connecticut students to start their career right here in the state.
None of this would be possible, without the dedication and devotion of Connecticut’s teachers – the finest in the country.
Connecticut – we do not have silicon, we don’t have natural gas, but we have always had the best educated, best trained, most productive, most inventive workforce in the world. That is our strategic advantage and it is more important in the 21st century than ever before.
Companies roam the globe looking for talent. Look no further, you can stop right here.
The Connecticut We Can Be Again
Let’s Fix this Budget Once and For All
So at this point, you’re probably thinking, “That’s all well and good, gov. But the budget is a mess.”
How can we be a laboratory of democracy when we have such a hard time paying our bills?
We cannot afford to let the next four years be defined by a fiscal crisis. The fate of our great state is on a knife’s edge. If we choose inaction and more of the same – we fail. But if we choose creative and bold leadership, a commitment to make the hard and difficult choices necessary to right the wrongs of the past – we will succeed.
Let’s fix this damn budget, once and for all!
In six weeks, I will present to you a budget which is in balance not just for a year, but for the foreseeable future; so that mayors and first selectmen, business and labor leaders, teachers and police officers know what to expect. And we will deliver on what we say – on time and on budget.
However, I want to be clear – no more funny math or budgetary gamesmanship. I come from the world of small business where the numbers have to add up at the end of the month or the lights go out.
Don’t tell me some consultant says there are $1 billion in easy spending cuts; show me the money or I will show you the door.
Unlike in DC, our government doesn’t shut down – we don’t play those games here. We can’t tell students school is closed today, police or fire departments can’t say we’ll respond later, and we don’t tell our most vulnerable that the services they depend upon will reopen at a later date.
Lastly, I refuse to invest any time in the blame game of who’s responsible for this crisis. It’s real, it’s here and it’s time to confront it head on.
And, please don’t tell me you’ve done your share and it’s somebody else’s turn. It’s all of our turns.
Fix the budget, invest in the future, and nothing can stop us.
A Bigger Table and an Open Door
Fixing the budget requires a bigger table and an open door. I am ready to listen to any good idea, and I will take the heat and share the credit. The budget vote will be a tough one, no doubt. It will be easy to vote no, but I have a responsibility to get us to yes - and we only get there by working together.
Business leaders: Some of you have already stepped up and are ready to take the lead when it comes to workforce development and positioning Connecticut students to take Connecticut jobs. A special thanks to my Business Advisory Council, which is already reaching out to new companies that may be a great fit for Connecticut.
Philanthropic leaders and volunteers: Giving back is the highest form of citizenship. I am excited about your willingness to partner with us to invest in our future. I am confident we will do great things together.
State employees and labor leaders: I have been so impressed by the quality of the folks who work for the State of Connecticut. I am a strong believer in labor, and now is the time to show that collective bargaining works in tough times, as well as good times. As our liabilities continue to grow faster than our assets, together we have to make the changes necessary to ensure that retirement security is a reality for our younger, as well as our older, state employees, and do that without breaking the bank.
Mayors and first selectmen: Nothing will compromise your feisty independence, but so many services and back-office functions can be delivered at a much lower cost and much more efficiently if they are operated on a shared or regional basis. We need to break down silos and engage in the bulk purchasing of everything from healthcare to technology. The taxpayers of Connecticut can no longer afford to subsidize inefficiency.
Connecticut is the land of steady habits, and while we need to return to the habits which made us such an economic powerhouse a generation ago, we also need to change the game – and create new habits, that capitalize on our strengths.
Our great state is strategically positioned between two super-cities. Connecticut needs to harness its prime location, its highly educated workforce, and its business community to create the Connecticut of tomorrow.
To achieve this, I will be focusing on four areas:
First, I will take the lead by investing in the first all-digital government, and reverse engineer every transaction from the taxpayer’s shoes. The entry point to Connecticut will be through its digital front door, a one-stop-shop for everything current and prospective citizens need from their government. We will be online, not in line. It won’t be done overnight, but let’s start today.
Second, to attract millennials, top talent and leading companies, Connecticut will need to invest wisely in its urban centers – making them affordable and lively, where families want to live, work and play. That means great schools, safe streets and by making our cities the first with 5G in New England. The telecommunication companies are ready to start building – let’s harness that excitement, and get WiFi access into every rural town.
Third, none of this is possible if we don’t have a 21st century transportation system. When the Merritt Parkway opened in 1940, it wasn’t uncommon for people to pull over and picnic on the side of the road. Those of us who spend a good deal of time down in Fairfield County have contemplated the same idea today because we’re so darn frustrated by bumper-to-bumper traffic. Gridlock causes headaches and costs us jobs.
So what can we do? 30/30/30 – I want the following to be a reality: 30 minutes from Hartford to New Haven; 30 minutes from New Haven to Stamford; and 30 minutes from Stamford to Manhattan with spurs to New London and Waterbury. This isn’t a pipedream, this is a necessity: a modern infrastructure by rail, road, air and water – to unlock the full economic potential of our beautiful state.
Fourth, Connecticut’s economic revival cannot only be about creating opportunities for just some of our people. It must be an economy that works for everyone. We must bring our workforce into the 21st century, closely aligning it with job training, starting with STEM and coding in K-12, and access to higher education, vo-tech and apprenticeships that will result in access to good paying Connecticut jobs.
That also means bringing the workplace into the 21st century, including paid family leave to make sure that parents don’t have to choose between the child they love and the job they need. It also means a $15 dollar minimum wage, responsibly and over time, so that those same parents can afford to provide for their children without working three jobs.
As one of the first Governors who comes from the business world, I will be hyper-focused on job creation. My primary objective is to get this economy growing again.
How do we extend opportunity for those being left behind? Growth!
What’s the long-term fix to the budget? Growth!
How do we attract the next generation of talent to Connecticut? Growth!
Now all of that economic growth takes time to nurture, but it starts today!
Blueprint for the Future
I’m a new Governor, and you’re a new legislature. Even for those of you who have been here for a few years, this is a new day.
What you can expect from me is the following: I’m a straight shooter, an honest broker and a good listener. I know what I know and I know what I don’t. I do have a strong sense of where we need to go and of what the people of Connecticut expect from us.
Last November, thousands of voters waited in the rain, in some cases, for hours to vote. They believed that we can make a difference; we will and we must.
Let’s work together and produce a budget for the people of Connecticut that doesn’t borrow from the future, but instead invests in the future.
Like those kids at Harding High, who believed in themselves, I believe in Connecticut. You are here because you believe in our state. Let’s get Connecticut growing again.
As they say in Hamilton, history has its eyes on you, on all of us. Let’s do this. Together.
May God bless you, and may God bless the hardworking people of this great state!