‘Connecticut has Clarity': Lamont Reacts to Election Results, Talks Tolls & Taxes

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While there’s still uncertainty over who will lead the nation, Tuesday night Connecticut voters made a clear choice about who they want representing them at the state capitol.

“I think it was a pretty strong mandate for the Democrats,” said Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat.

While the votes were still being tallied Wednesday, it appeared that the majority party picked up seven more seats in the House and two more in the Senate.

“I think it’s certainly a reaction to the president,” said ranking Republican Rep. Vincent Candelora of North Branford.

Lawmakers will return to Hartford in January with a long agenda cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

The governor wants lawmakers to find a solution to save the state’s failing transportation fund.

"Let's face it.  My solution wasn't very popular,” said Lamont of the plan to put tolls up on the interstate.

Lamont said he's working on alternatives to tolls.

"It's reaching a point where you keep punting those decisions and then you're only left with one decision and sadly it could be tolls for the state of Connecticut,” said Candelora.

While no Republicans supported tolls, some Democrats did. Now that they’ve gained more seats in the General Assembly some wonder and others worry that tolls will be back on the table. 

“I think they should not look at tolls again.  No, not at all,” said Cindy Andrews of Manchester.

"I just feel like trucks, I think they should get tolled,” said Damion Kelly of Bloomfield.

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said she’s hopeful that federal funds will come in next year to help pay for state transportation projects.

“The governor and I feel pretty confident that Joe Biden will be the winner and we will be able to then be able to use federal resources,” she explained.

“People are going to say, 'oh my gosh a lot of Democrats, and super majorities,' I just want people who are looking for solutions,” Lamont said of Tuesday’s election results.

When they return in January, lawmakers will face a $2 billion budget deficit fueled by the coronavirus. 

"I'm not gonna raise taxes if I don't have to raise taxes that's for darn sure,” promised Lamont.

Instead, the governor said he supports Joe Biden's plan for a federal income tax on those making more than $400,000 a year.

“I thought the idea of Connecticut jumping forward, raising taxes on our own, puts our state at a terrible competitive disadvantage,” he explained.

Some members of his own party, including those newly elected on Tuesday, have said the state should be taxing the wealthy too.

Candelora believes Tuesday's results might provide enough motivation to make that happen.

“As the progressive Democrats are coming out of these wealthy suburbs and advocating to tax their own constituencies and they seem to be supporting that notion it's very difficult to fight against it,” said Candelora. “As Republicans continue to be representing the party of the working class it becomes harder and harder to say the millionaires shouldn’t be taxed."

Voters told us that they think jobs should be a top priority for state lawmakers.

“I think the state should focus on the economy,” said Sherry Cowles of Vernon.

“I think they should focus primarily on taxes.  They should start taxing the upper class,” added Andrews.

Both women agreed that the state should also legalize recreational marijuana. 

“If it helps the economy, yes definitely,” said Cowles.

In the past, the governor has proposed bringing the state in line with its neighbor to the north and he expects the issue to return next year. 

“Massachusetts is already legal, Rhode Island’s looking at it, New York is looking at it.  I’ll be talking to my fellow governors on what we want to do on a regional basis and talking to the legislature as well,” said Lamont.

“It isn’t a partisan issue.  We have Republicans that support it as well as Democrats and then opposition is the same.  It crosses party lines,” Candelora pointed out.  “When it goes to a referendum ballot it tends to pass but what’s interesting is when the legislature is left up to make the decision states are very slow to do it.  There’s just a lot that goes into it which ends up causing legislatures to vote no.”

It’s a good bet, online gambling will also be back on the table, along with police accountability. While Democrats have complete control of both chambers, voters say they still want to see compromise.

“I think Republicans got some good things going too and if they just come together and work together like they’re supposed to then I guess it will be fine, but we’re not seeing that,” said Kelly, noting that he himself is a Democrat.

When asked when he would make a decision about running for a second term, Lamont said it’s wildly premature to say, noting that he’d like to get the budget and the Covid crisis under control first.

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