HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Gov. Ned Lamont has announced he is running for re-election. The 2022 legislative session begins this week, so News 8 decided to look back at Lamont’s 2018 platform proposals.
Was he able to keep those campaign promises?
Adult use of cannabis was always on the table for Lamont. A key opponent who had successfully filibustered debate on the issue, State Sen. Toni Boucher, lost her seat.
In the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers would eventually pass the measure in special session, but not after days of drama surrounding controversial language reportedly put into the bill to benefit one party or another.
A Quinnipiac political science professor says this was an easy win for Lamont.
“Connecticut is joining an ever-growing number of states. Connecticut, I believe is this 18th to approve recreational marijuana and there’s a considerable amount of public support for the legalization at all levels,” Dr. Wesley Renfrow said.
Lamont ran on a platform to hold the line on taxes and restore and expand the state’s property tax credit for all property owners to $300.
He proposed reducing costs at the Department of Correction, improving DRS enforcement by closing the ‘tax gap’ and passing sports gaming to pay for it. That tax cut proved to be too expensive. The state would have lost $165 million a year. The policy died.
University of New Haven Political Science Professor Chris Haynes says Lamont was pragmatic in not forcing the issue.
“You don’t want to overpromise something that later down the line can hit you in the face. Here’s another Democratic governor who has built a big budget deficit. He learned the lesson on Dan Malloy in this instance here,” Haynes said.
A state-paid family and medical leave policy was never put in place prior to Lamont becoming governor because of cost, but Democrats backed by the Connecticut Working Families party pushed and the state-administered plan became a reality.
Money comes out of everyone’s paycheck to pay for the program and state workers are exempt.
Non-union state employees pay into the program.
Lamont campaigned on the idea saying, “Workers should not have to choose between spending the first days with their children, the last days with their parents, or paying their mortgage.”
Haynes says, unlike other Democratic leaders, Lamont had a lot of public support, which was key.
“President Joe Biden’s inability to get things through Congress. Of course, Congress is a different animal than our legislature, but not having public support can really erode the chief executive’s ability to get legislation through the legislature or Congress,” Haynes said.
Lamont had a plan to pay for infrastructure fixes by putting up truck-only tolls. A controversial plan to erect nearly 100 gantries on all major highways, however, ignited a battle. Then, after public outcry and protests on just about every corner, that plan later died.
Renfrow says at the end of the day, he’s not so sure that was a defeat.
“The governor’s line now is the infusion of federal dollars closed to $6 billion for transportation infrastructure. The tolls are simply not needed, the state will simply get the dollars it would have raised through tolls and things will be improved. Roads will be better and commute times will be less, so on and so forth,” Renfrow said.
In 2021, Democratic lawmakers passed a separate highway user fee aimed at heavy trucks. It goes into effect in January or 2023. It’s expected to raise $90 million and Republicans are looking to repeal it.
Lamont supported sports betting and online gaming from day one. He pointed to surrounding states being ahead of Connecticut and taking in revenue while the state was on the sidelines. After years of negotiations with the state’s two Native American tribes, a deal was made. The expansion would include the two casinos and the CT Lottery.
“There is a long tradition of legal gaming in the state and the sense that we’re losing out to competitors like Rhode Island,” Renfrow said.
The state has received $7.3 million in revenues in the first three months of the expanded gaming and $20 million is expected by the end of the year. The Connecticut Council on Problem Gaming reports calls to its hotline have skyrocketed.
Another part of Lamont’s platform was the transportation climate initiative. He ran on attacking climate change by cutting emissions through a cap-and-trade scheme. Opponents were vocal saying the suppliers would be forced to raise the price of gas at the pump.
The policy died, was on life support through a summer special session, and ultimately evaporated. Dr. Renfrow says people support TCI in the abstract because they want a cleaner environment, but “however, folks do not like rising gas prices in particular put against the backdrop of fuel prices that are rising and inflationary.”
The CT Conference of Municipalities recently unveiled its legislative agenda. It supports TCI to help pay for fixes to the roads and bridges. Expect the fight to be reignited.
On Tuesday, the second part of the report card reflects the dual-track the administration has been on, managing a COVID pandemic.