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\Democrat Ned Lamont barely scraped out a victory over his Republican opponent Bob Stefanowski last November in a race that remained up in the air until the early hours of the morning on Election Night.

Nine months later, the administration’s new officials in Hartford are paddling furiously to keep the Nutmeg State’s fragile economy afloat.

This summer, Lamont approved his first two-year budget, which totals $43 billion and does not include increases to the income or sales tax rates. Nevertheless, the budget did not feature new electronic tolls — one of Lamont’s key policy proposals. 

Connecticut’s financial struggles were the central focus of last year’s gubernatorial campaign, and the economy remains a top priority for the new administration. The state’s GDP was one of two in the nation to shrink in size in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The economy was smaller at the end of 2017 than it was in 2004.

Although legislative Democrats lauded the budget, Republicans deemed it fiscally irresponsible. Republican legislators worried that the budget will result in a deficit for the state and rely on high taxes.

“This budget is simply a sham,” said Senate minority leader Len Fasano ’84 in a June statement. “These are illegitimate, purposefully misleading numbers that will result in a deficit that dooms Connecticut to failure.”

Lamont has also gotten lucky with the composition of the Connecticut General Assembly this session. During Malloy’s last year in office, the House of Representatives had a slim democratic majority, while the state senate was split 18–18 between the two parties. Opposition to President Donald Trump in the midterms, however, brought a blue wave to Connecticut.

The Connecticut House and Senate, which became highly skewed following the 2018 elections, has helped Lamont in passing several pieces of progressive legislation during this session, including gun control bills calling for the safe storage of guns in homes with children, a ban on guns without serial numbers and a ban on unlocked guns in unattended vehicles. In June, Lamont signed a law that requires firearms to be properly stored regardless of whether they are loaded or unloaded. The measure changes the definition of a “minor” to anyone up to age 18, up from 16 under current law.

“Laws that require gun owners to safely store firearms and ammunition in a manner that prevents minors from accessing them are commonsense and have near universal support, including among gun owners,” Lamont said in a June press release.

Despite this productivity in the General Assembly, however, Lamont’s disapproval rating was at 48 percent as of July 2019, while 32 percent of residents approve of his job performance, according to Morning Consult. This makes Lamont the third most unpopular governor in the country. Around 60 percent of respondents expressed disapproval with how Lamont has handled these two issues.

In a July letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal, Lamont defended his tenure thus far, and assured constituents that the Nutmeg’s state seems to be bouncing back.

“When I took office in January, I did so staring down the barrel of a $3.7 billion budget deficit, which we’ve since closed,” Lamont wrote. “Part of what ails Connecticut is a willingness to harp on the past instead of focusing on the great assets we have.”

Lamont is Connecticut’s 89th governor.

Nathalie Bussemaker | nathalie.bussemaker@yale.edu