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Gov. Ned Lamont sworn in for second term, CT lawmakers gear up to tackle taxes, housing issues

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is administered the oath of office by former Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court Chase T. Rogers, and with his wife Annie holding a Bible, January 04, 2023, at the Gov. William A. O'Neill State Armory.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is administered the oath of office by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers as Lamont’s wife, Annie, holds a Bible at the Gov. William A. O’Neill State Armory on Jan. 4, 2023.

Sworn into office for a second four-year term, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday called on state legislators to pass a “meaningful middle class tax cut,” saying it's time for the state to refocus on economic growth and opportunity now that the emergency of the pandemic is fading.

“Three years later, I still worry like heck about COVID,” Lamont said. “But I worry even more that we will lose the opportunities as a state and a country to lift families up.”

Lamont said the state is moving past rescue efforts early in the pandemic, in which payments were given to keep people and businesses afloat.

“The next four years should focus more on recovery, less on rescue, less need for lifelines and more focus on ladders,” he told a joint session of the General Assembly. “Keep our economy growing, making sure that growth means a ladder to opportunity for everyone regardless of background or ZIP code.”

As he embarks on a new term, Lamont has a larger majority of fellow Democrats in the General Assembly and a rosier state budget picture compared to when he first took office in 2019. That budget outlook is due in part to the state's record cash reserves and a projected $1 billion operating surplus.

During his speech, Lamont touted his efforts to pay down billions of dollars in state debt during his first term. The governor called for a cut in tax rates for the middle class. He urged the replacement of transportation infrastructure, instead of just maintenance. He also said the state still has almost $1 billion in federal money to invest in education.

Accompanied by his wife, Annie, Lamont took the oath of office at the Gov. William A. O'Neill State Armory.

Lamont said divisions in Washington, D.C., over the last two years show how important it is to work to maintain democracy.

“I want to thank the people of Connecticut for giving Annie and me this opportunity,” he said. “I cannot do anything without my wife; I cannot do anything without my family. I think that keeps you grounded in life, keeps you grounded during what has been some really complicated times.”

Lamont was not feted with a parade, as in previous inaugurations, but he received a 19-gun salute and will be the star at the planned inaugural ball, held across the street from the state Capitol at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers outline legislative priorities

For Republicans and Democrats, the list of legislative priorities is long: tackling the high cost of health care, energy and housing are important issues for both parties.

Lawmakers are also talking about cutting the state’s income tax.

“I know that the governor has proposed this, and it would also give people at the lower end a tax break, but maybe not necessarily at the higher ends,” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford) said.

But Kelly’s Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), said any further tax cuts must be done responsibly.

“We delivered over $600 million [in] tax cuts for the residents of the state of Connecticut,” Duff said, noting that Democrats want the state to “continue to pay down our pension debt. And we fund services in a way that needs to be funded to keep our state moving.”

Lawmakers have until June 7 to hammer out any new tax cuts.

Affordable housing is also seen by both parties as a major roadblock in growing Connecticut’s economy.

Duff said it’s in every town’s best interest to build housing in which recent college graduates, senior citizens and the lower middle class can afford.

“We will lose people … our economy will stagnate at our own peril if we don’t address affordable housing,” Duff said.

According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Connecticut has one of the highest costs of living in the country.

Kelly said housing is a complex issue with many competing interests. The Republican said one solution might be in what the state already has.

“We also need to look at the existing housing stocks that we have and start looking at ways to change the definition of how we define affordable housing and make it so that some of the existing housing could be improved and rehabilitated,” Kelly said.

Capitol building reopens to the public

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Capitol Building in Hartford was fully open to the public as Connecticut’s General Assembly opened its 2023 regular session Wednesday morning.

Duff said the first day is always exciting and fun, like the first day of school.

“Everybody’s kind of dressed up. It’s a happy day. People bring up their friends and family. It just reminds you of how honored and privileged we are to be sitting where we’re sitting at the state Capitol,” Duff said.

Rank-and-file lawmakers will make an annual salary of $40,000, up from $28,000 per year. Senators and representatives in leadership posts earn more.

This story contains information from the Associated Press.

Updated: January 4, 2023 at 3:41 PM EST
This story has been updated.
Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
Matt Dwyer is an editor, reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department. He produces local news during All Things Considered.

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