Yale Daily News

As the federal government shutdown extends into its fourth week, Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 has taken over the reins as Connecticut’s 89th governor, promising an end to the state’s economic instability.

Lamont was sworn in at the William A. O’Neill State Armory in Hartford and delivered his inaugural address on Jan. 9. After the ceremony, the inauguration parade proceeded to the State Capitol building, where Lamont delivered his “State of the State” address before a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The inaugural ball was held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford and featured MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough and his band.

“Every generation we get a chance to reinvent ourselves, and every election gives us a fresh start,” Lamont said in his inaugural address. “For generations, Connecticut was the most entrepreneurial, inventive and fast-growing state loaded with amazing opportunities. And we still can be.”

More than a dozen protesters gathered outside the Armory during the inauguration ceremony to protest the addition of tolls on state highways. Lamont said during his campaign that he only supported tolls for tractor-trailers, but one of his transition working groups has recommended that the tolls apply to passenger cars as well.

Two of Lamont’s most influential nominees are Chief of Staff Ryan Drajewicz, a former hedge fund executive at Bridgewater Associates who previously worked for former Sen. Chris Dodd, D.-Conn., and Secretary of Policy and Management Melissa McCaw, who was Hartford’s top fiscal official and will now oversee Lamont’s budget for the state.

“It’s strange to have a budget director coming out of Hartford,” said Sacred Heart University professor Gary Rose. “Hartford is on the verge of bankruptcy, and although she inherited a lot of problems, it nevertheless felt unusual.”

Rose pointed to the examples of McCaw and Vanessa Dorantes, the newly nominated heads of the Department of Children and Families — both of whom are black women — as a sign that Lamont hopes to be more inclusive and sensitive than his predecessor to the concerns of the demographic blocs largely responsible for his victory over Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski.

Until the early morning following election night, Stefanowski held a slight lead over Lamont, but the Governor cinched victory after winning overwhelming victories in the state’s urban centers, such as Hartford, Bridgeport and the Elm City.

The tight gubernatorial race was a sharp contrast to the congressional and Connecticut General Assembly races, which Democrats won by large margins. Certain analysts attributed part of this discrepancy to the unpopularity of Lamont’s predecessor, former Gov. Dan Malloy.

In his inaugural address, Lamont seemed to distance himself from his predecessor, according to Rose. Malloy’s unpopularity largely stemmed from Connecticut’s growing fiscal woes. In 2017, the state faced its longest budget crisis in Connecticut history, and economic growth that year ranked 43rd in the country.

Lamont vowed to make creating a balanced budget his top priority.

“I will not allow the next four years to be defined by a fiscal crisis,” Lamont said in his inaugural address. “Together we will craft an honestly balanced budget which does not borrow from the future, but invests in the future.”

New Haven mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer expressed Mayor Toni Harp’s hope that the new state budget would fix past revenue-raising difficulties and would continue to support New Haven projects such as the development of the Long Wharf area and the creation of a halfway home for women.

Lamont spent much of his first week in office traversing the state to hear from constituents and state employees. On Thursday, he visited Department of Transportation offices in Newington and spoke at the 2019 Environmental Summit hosted by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. Earlier in the week, he visited Tracey Elementary School in Norwalk and the New Britain Museum of American Art.

“I will remind all of us that there is no room for the critic on the sidelines. It is easy to vote no,” Lamont said at his inauguration. “Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt and work like heck to get to yes – and make sure that all of our kids get their shot.”

Lamont will unveil his budget proposal on Feb. 8.

Nathalie Bussemaker | nathalie.bussemaker@yale.edu