HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont gave his State of the State Address on Wednesday to mark the start of the 2021 legislative session.
He reflected on his first two years in office, elaborated on the many challenges our state and nation have endured during 2020 and what lies ahead in 2021.
Coronavirus was a thick, added layer to the issues we were already facing as a state. Lamont, at the start of the address, held a moment of silence for the thousands of Connecticut residents who died from COVID-19.
He applauded the heroes involved with conquering the coronavirus pandemic, from our health care workers to essential workers, volunteers at Foodshare, to his Vaccine Advisory Committee.
He also thanked teachers and educators for working tirelessly to continue educating their students during these times. Most schools this past fall were able to stay open safely and implement a hybrid learning schedule.
“With schools closed around the country, we kept more of ours safely open, because we prioritize our children and their futures, because they are our future.”
In the address, Lamont reflected on his past two years as governor of Connecticut. He said policy changes between then and now, including increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 and providing broader access to health care, helped residents during the first year of the pandemic.
“Two years ago, I vowed to work tirelessly to ensure that all our kids have the greatest opportunities to thrive, succeed and create a life of their own – right here in Connecticut.”
The pandemic was also a warning call to address the growing digital divide among Connecticut students and families.
It was the work of Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona, who helped provide learning devices to every student in need in Connecticut while learning from home.
This achievement helped Cardona become President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education.
“When the pandemic struck, we worked together – public, private, and nonprofits – to solve this digital divide.”
“This year, we will continue to emphasize our best-in-the-nation public schools and workforce development, making sure every child, regardless of zip code, race, color or creed, has the best opportunity at the starting line of life.”
2020 was no exception; one of Connecticut’s main priorities is to ensure residents have access to affordable health care. The state added cost and quality benchmarks for health care procedures and services this past year. State officials are also working to keep the costs of high-quality care lower for consumers.
“After COVID, we have a renewed understanding that affordable, quality health care is not only essential to us as individuals but critically important for the well-being of our communities.”
It happened to be an election year — a presidential election. To ensure Connecticut residents were able to vote safely, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill expanded Connecticut’s absentee and early voting system, which Lamont hopes will someday become a permanent method.
This legislative session, all eyes are on what will help the state’s budget. The governor said that we passed an “honestly balanced budget” two years ago, which included a down payment on paying off longstanding pensions and create Connecticut’s largest rainy-day fund.
“In these turbulent economic times, we are well positioned to fund our critical services without draconian cuts or broad tax increases.”
Lamont said that during the pandemic, the state has been able to provide state aid to small businesses struggling to stay open while waiting for federal aid to kick in.
Business owners were able to use the Shared Work Program to retain their employees until the economy comes back in full swing.
The governor closed his address saying,
“The next year will continue to be a challenging time for our state and nation, but I have never been more optimistic about our future. Through our shared values and commitment to one another, we will rise above this crisis and build a better tomorrow. Today is the first day of Connecticut’s comeback story.”
Matt Ritter (D) released one of his first statements as House Speaker in response to the State of the State address, saying,
“Governor Lamont is well-versed in crisis leadership. He is a proven, strong leader for the people of Connecticut. His deep belief in the importance of data and science in our response to COVID and all public health crises was evident in his speech.
Gov. Lamont talked about some very important issues today – economic opportunity, racism, helping local businesses, health care and many more. No matter the issue. No matter the crisis. I am confident the General Assembly has a partner in Governor Ned Lamont.”
Watch the video above for the full 2021 State of the State address from Governor Ned Lamont.