Following is the Gov. Ned Lamont’s 2020 State of the State Address, as it was prepared:
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 again for trusting me with this office and inviting me back into this hall.
Thanks to our partnership, the state of our state is strong and getting stronger--but we still have a long way to go.
A year ago, I promised we would work together to ensure Connecticut’s future would no longer be defined by fiscal crisis.
We also boosted our state’s Rainy Day Fund to a record level that will protect key services, protect our most vulnerable residents, and protect our taxpayers through the next economic storm.
Our successful efforts have resonated on Main Street. Our budget provided predictability to those counting on it most; I have heard from school principals, city and town leaders, small businesses and families – all saying – “finally, we can now plan for our future.”
Three years ago, credit rating agencies downgraded our state with headlines like the Wall Street Journal that asked “What’s the matter with Connecticut?”
Today, the Wall Street Journal has changed its tone. “The state has dug a deep hole--maybe it has now stopped digging.”
Rating agencies and investors have upgraded their outlook for Connecticut for the first time in 18 years, from neutral to positive – saving the state and its taxpayers tens of millions in borrowing costs.
Economic growth picked up last year. That means businesses and young families are now giving Connecticut a second look.
For a while in Connecticut, it wasn’t just Democrats and Republicans who were not talking to each other, it was that state government that was not connecting with business leaders, labor leaders, educators and the hospitals – we had a failure to communicate.
First of all, we need to reset our state’s relationship with the business community.
In the last year, I have personally visited nearly one-hundred businesses – from our state’s largest employers like Electric Boat – which is boasting over 12,000 Connecticut employees – the most in 30 years – and will be hiring 18,000 over the next decade.
Coming out of business myself, I enjoy moving from the boardroom, to the shop floor, to the brew pub. I love getting to know these businesses, know their employees, what they proudly build every day and what they need in order to keep calling Connecticut home.
Our commissioners are also reaching out every day to ask: what can we do to help?
I am very proud of our cabinet, not only is it the most diverse in terms of gender and race, our commissioners combine the expertise of leaders from the private as well as the public sector, from Hartford to Washington, D.C. to Washington State.
My motto has always been: hire great people and give them the freedom to make it happen.
David Lehman and the Department of Economic and Community Development brought together more than 400 investors, developers, and municipal leaders to launch ctopportunityzones.com, where thousands of people have taken a look at areas of the state that have been left behind for too long.
Katie Dykes and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are making it easier to take a brownfield site and transform it into an exciting new business – with 95 percent of those complex decisions now happening in less than three months, all while maintaining the highest environmental standards.
And there’s Vanessa Dorantes, our Commissioner over at the Department of Children and Families, who rose through the ranks, has dedicated her entire career to our state’s children and she is working to guide DCF out from under the Juan F. decree.
Josh Geballe at the Department of Administrative Services will soon roll out a one-stop process for businesses that otherwise would have had to individually visit the Secretary of the State’s Office, DRS, DOL, DECD and the rest of the alphabet soup just to do business with the state.
I promised last year that you would be spending more time online, not in line, and we are just getting started.
Josh is also planning for the tsunami of state employee retirements over the next few years, which he sees as an opportunity for government to show that we can do more with less. For example, based on my second executive order, we are already centralizing IT and personnel to provide better services at about 20 percent less cost.
Talk about changing perceptions – Bloomberg News recognized Connecticut as the 4th most innovative economy in the country--and I never stop at 4th best.
Here in Hartford, the capital region is home to companies that constantly innovate like Infosys, a global digital services company that has already hired nearly 600 Connecticut employees.
Here today is Tim Bryan, GalaxE’s CEO. Thank you for sharing our conviction that Connecticut is a great place to innovate and do business.
Now a short train ride away is New Haven. Yale-New Haven Hospital is breaking ground on a state-of-the-art neuroscience center and commercial developers are connecting the downtown with new buildings that will offer modern lab and incubator space at a fraction of what it would cost in Boston or New York so our STEM students, our PhDs and our emerging companies can achieve their dreams right here. New Haven is exploding with growth, building permits have more than doubled – and 2020 will be the city’s biggest year yet!
Over in Guilford, serial entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg and the ButterflyiQ have the FDA approvals to turn your smartphone into a professional-grade ultrasound imaging device, increasing access to affordable healthcare diagnostics in Connecticut and beyond. Jonathan, thank you for innovating right here in Connecticut.
Remember those headlines from Stamford about the world’s largest finance trading floor sitting vacant? No longer! World Wrestling Entertainment has taken it over and will be turning it into one of the world’s largest digital production studios. Citywide, there’s more than $6 billion in development underway – just in Stamford, alone!
Yes Connecticut, we got our mojo back, but that only matters if we have an economy that works for everybody, starting with a vibrant and growing middle class.
Neither Connecticut nor the middle class can grow unless we are preparing every member of the next generation to get the job done.
The revamped Governor’s Workforce Council has assembled one of the most talented and ambitious state workforce boards in the nation. Led by Garrett Moran, our state’s biggest employers are sitting down with our educators, our nonprofits, our state agencies, and our unions to make sure that Connecticut maintains the highest quality education and training pipeline in the nation.
I’ve said it before, Connecticut has always had the best-trained, best educated, most productive workforce in the world, and that starts with the best teachers in the world. Our budget made Connecticut’s largest-ever investment in K-12 education.
That takes some of the burden off of property taxes, and it provides our teachers the resources they need to teach everything, including computer coding, laser welding and the arts.
To ensure that all kids get their opportunity at the starting line of life, we worked with local philanthropists to establish the Partnership for Connecticut and focus on disengaged and disconnected kids and young adults, doing everything we can to get them back on track.
Look, I come out of the entrepreneurial world, where you can often raise money to turn a good idea into a business. The Partnership will provide funding for teachers and non-profits to turn their best ideas into more hope for their students. We’ve already had hundreds of responses to our first request for information.
With half our students being children of color, Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona and I have prioritized recruiting black and Hispanic teachers and developing courses that showcase the important contributions those communities have made to American history.
It doesn’t stop in high school. More and more jobs require post-secondary training, and we are doing more to make higher education more affordable so no student gives up his or her dreams because they cannot afford the cost.
Starting this year, UConn will eliminate tuition for all students of families earning less than $50,000 a year, and community college will be debt-free for recent high school grads.
Reducing the cost of education is just one way we are trying to make Connecticut more affordable for middle-class families.
We have made it easier for seniors to stay in the state they love by reducing taxes on social security and pension income, and we’ve provided veterans and volunteer first responders with property tax relief. To help small businesses, we removed the business entity tax. We held the line on fees to make it easier to be a plumber, electrician, or any of the trades, which are so desperately needed here in Connecticut.
We adopted America’s best $15 minimum wage law, which has already helped lift thousands of families out of poverty. Right now, working families have seen a $35/week raise that lets them spend time with their child instead of picking up another work shift. In the next five years, that law will help more than half a million Connecticut workers – especially women and people of color – receive their fair share of a growing economy.
Do you know there are now more women than men in the U.S. workforce? We have to make sure our workforce works for them. That starts in the executive ranks, where Lieutenant Governor Bysiewicz has worked with dozens of our major employers who have pledged that half of their senior leaders and corporate board members will be women – in ten years or less.
That’s why together we adopted a bold new paid family and medical leave program that means no one in Connecticut will have to choose between their family’s financial security and caring for family – all of which makes it easier for parents to work.
It’s also why we maintained access and expanded eligibility to Care 4 Kids, so more middle-income families can afford quality childcare. That means money back in the pockets of hard-working families – like Jennifer and Richard Rodriguez from New Haven, who previously had to forgo overtime pay and decline a salary increase, because even a $50 increase per year would result in them losing over thousands of dollars in benefits.
We’ve done a lot and can do more.
Having the best workforce and the best workplaces doesn’t matter unless people can actually get to work. Too many people are wasting time on their commutes that they should be enjoying at home with their families.
Almost all of us here understand that if we do not speed up, our economy will slow down.
Republicans and Democrats alike agree on the scope of the job and the new money needed to do the work.
And I know the choices to fund these improvements are between the Democrats’ plan to levy a small user fee on the heavy trucks that do the most of damage to our bridges and the Republicans’ proposal to divert money from the Rainy Day Fund.
You are in the room where it happens, so let’s vote to get this state moving again.
I’m also proposing we work together to redesign the state’s economic incentives to focus on new, good paying jobs in growth sectors, with a special emphasis on distressed communities that have been left behind. Some of the best investments we can make as a state are in companies that are already here.
Rather than rely on risky up-front grants to lure out-of-state companies we’re introducing performance-based incentives and rewarding companies that create good-paying jobs here in Connecticut – all at less risk to taxpayers.
People who are finding new jobs in Connecticut also need to be able to find a home they can afford. My administration will support those communities that choose to welcome the transit-oriented development that provides families access to good homes near good jobs and good schools.
Let’s make sure that our teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and childcare providers can afford to live in the communities they serve.
Families need to be able to afford healthcare.
Connecticut has some of the very best doctors, hospitals and payers. Connecticut will take the lead on increasing access to world-class, affordable healthcare by shining a light on costs and quality.
I’m proposing legislation that will curb annual cost increases so doctors’ visits and prescription drugs stop consuming more and more of our paychecks year after year. Similar measures have saved patients and businesses billions of dollars in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, the White House is cutting funding for programs like Planned Parenthood that keep the full range of reproductive options available and affordable. Our budget will start making up the difference.
With infectious viruses threatening our nation and state from overseas, now more than ever, a thoughtful vaccination program is vital to keep our families safe. At the same time we can hold down prescription drug prices by joining other states in purchasing pharma from Canada at much less cost to you.
A special shout out to Comptroller Kevin Lembo. He’s saving money in healthcare in innovative ways by getting better care for our state employees at less cost to the taxpayer.
Without leadership from Washington, it’s up to us and neighboring states to solve problems. Here in New England, we know that economic growth goes hand-in-hand with protecting our environment against pollution and climate change.
The White House may not believe in climate change, but the Navy does, and the admiral who oversees our nation’s submarine fleet told me one of the big selling points of our submarine base in Groton is our higher elevation. New construction is moving up the hill and they’re moving their utilities from the basement to the top floor.
Look, if the submarine fleet worries about rising tides, so should we.
Early in my administration, the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant contacted us to say that they were thinking of closing a plant that provides almost all of our zero-carbon power.
We made the largest purchase of wind power in our state’s history, at the nation’s lowest prices on record.
See what that means for ports like New London and Bridgeport. We are jumpstarting those cities with the creation of thousands of new green jobs.
Connecticut will continue to take the lead in New England and set a firm timeline for a carbon free, energy efficient future. No more diverting from our energy efficiency programs and Green Bank. We are delivering on our promises.
We are also working with our neighboring states as we consider regulating marijuana for adult use. Like it or not, legalized marijuana is a short drive away in Massachusetts and New York is soon to follow.
Coordinated regional regulation is our best chance to protect public health by displacing illicit sellers with trusted providers. And it’s an opportunity to right the wrongs of a war on drugs that has disproportionately impacted our minority communities.
Right now, what you can buy legally in Massachusetts could land you in prison for up to a year in Connecticut. We just marked the 100th anniversary of prohibition. How did that work out? The patchwork of cannabis and vaping laws are impossible to enforce.
During the last session we raised the legal age for tobacco and vaping to 21. We will work with our neighboring states to make our laws safe, uniform, and enforceable.
In similar fashion, I want to work with you to ensure we stand up a responsible sports betting platform that promotes economic growth for our state and is fair to our tribal partners.
Together, let’s work to ensure Connecticut isn’t left behind as our neighboring states continue to move forward on gaming while also avoiding endless litigation.
Before I close, I want to tackle one more thing head on.
No more badmouthing the great state of Connecticut. The rest of the country is looking at our state in a new light, and so should its leaders. Optimism can be contagious. No more rose-colored glasses.
We have a way to go, but we are making significant progress on your behalf every day.
It starts with little things.
Weren’t you sick and tired of waiting in endless lines over at the DMV? Well so was our new commissioner, Bongi Magubane. She used operations research to cut wait times in half. By the way, Bongi is one of the many immigrants whose success is Connecticut’s success: she moved here from South Africa fleeing Apartheid, speaking only Zulu, graduated from UConn, rose to the top tech position at Aetna, and is making DMV work for you. Thank you, Bongi.
Next up, license renewal on an iPad!
Last mention of transportation – I promise. Have you heard about the smart technology stoplights we will be installing as part of CT2030? We’ve all been headed home late at night and had our car get stuck at a red light with no other traffic as far as the eye can see--waiting and waiting.
These new lights will automatically turn green when there’s no oncoming traffic; stay green a little longer to make your commute a little shorter, speeding up highways, exit ramps and bus service.
Or remember on Election Day over a year ago, when voters spent three or more hours in line, in the rain, to cast their ballot in New Haven? This year, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is streamlining automatic and same-day voter registration – reducing the long lines and headaches on Election Day. Faith in government starts with integrity in voting. If Iowa can’t get it done right, Connecticut will.
Over the years, our government has had a bad case of the slows, but we are speeding things up.
We’re also fixing some of the larger problems that have been festering for years.
Speaking of never ending lawsuits, we had an old lawsuit with the state’s many hospitals which was not good for either party.
The hospital association was a good partner in reaching a reasonable compromise that saves taxpayers from paying $300 million a year and raises Medicaid rates so community hospitals can continue to serve those most in need. We also increased eligibility for Medicaid in our budget so more families can access health care, helping us reach the lowest uninsured rate in the history of our state.
A special thanks to OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw and my General Counsel, Bob Clark, who devoted countless hours to see those negotiations through.
Results matter. We’ve shown government can work for the people. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.
What I love about Connecticut is not only what we achieve, but also what we value.
We celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King a few weeks ago. I was particularly moved reading his letters home from Simsbury, Connecticut, where he was working for a summer on a tobacco farm as a very young man.
He wrote home to his dad that he loved Connecticut because he felt so welcome – at the restaurants, the plays, and in church. He realized the contrast with his home in Georgia, especially as he traveled back there in a train car where blacks and whites sat together from Hartford until they got to D.C., where he was forced to move to a segregated car.
He wrote that experience in Connecticut was key to inspiring him to take up the ministry and the cause of racial and economic justice.
I’m not saying for a second that we are that good. But I am saying that we should try every day to be that good.
We see the dysfunction in our nation’s capital. We were shocked by the hate speech from the march in Charlottesville. And I don’t want to see that poison leaking closer and closer to home. I’ve met with rabbis who fear the attacks on synagogues and Jewish communities, wondering what happened to the America they love and fearing for their future.
An attack on your synagogue or mosque is like an attack on my church. Connecticut is a family and we stand together against such attacks.
As some communities ask for more police protection, I’ve met with many African American ministers who speak of the fear in their communities, fear of gun violence and sometimes of the police who are there to protect them.
Law enforcement will continue to work to rebuild trust in minority communities.
And during those trying months when our TVs were filled with pictures of immigrant kids being separated from their families on the Rio Grande, I met with Hispanic kids who were afraid just to go to school or soccer practice.
Connecticut knows immigrants and refugees enrich the communities that offer them shelter.
Those are Connecticut values and we’re a Connecticut family.
As your governor for a little over a year, I celebrate so much good in our state which can serve as a shining example for Martin Luther King and for communities around the country.
We are proud that you call Connecticut home and every day we will work to earn your faith in our great state.
We are just getting started and we are much better off when we work together.
God bless you and the great State of Connecticut.