Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Gov. Ned Lamont (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

WATERBURY, CT — Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont told the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning that Connecticut has been on a bonding binge for the last eight years and it needs to go on a “debt diet.”

Lamont, a former cable executive from Greenwich, said that he’s been looking at the balance sheets and fixed costs are climbing at a faster rate than economic growth.

“It’s absolutely unsupportable,” Lamont said.

But reducing bonding that pays for a lot of local construction by $500 million a year is not going to make him “Mr. Popular” with lawmakers or municipal leaders.

“We’ve been on a bond binge for a long time and now we’re going to go on a debt diet,” Lamont said.

His announcement Tuesday more than a week before his budget address will not impact any projects currently under construction.

The governor, who serves as chairman of the state Bond Commission, has also canceled the January and February scheduled meetings of the group, saying that the state should limit its bonding agenda to critical needs only and at levels that are within the state’s financial ability to pay.

“We are not going to be rubber stamping everybody’s bonding request,” Lamont said.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Gov. Ned Lamont addresses Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

Lamont will also seek to re-prioritize new bond authorizations for municipal projects to serve as catalysts for growth and a stronger investment in information technology to bring the state’s aging IT infrastructure into the 21st century.

He said he wants to bring 5G technology to Connecticut and plans to do that by encouraging the private sector to build it.

Lamont admitted there are some business leaders who may be disappointed they’re not cutting more money on the operating side of the budget, but “let me just say we’re putting in place the people and the technology to make real important long-term savings over time.”

He said it’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s going to happen and improve delivery of services.

“I’ve got to give you a strong sense of confidence that we may not fix everything in the first year or the first term, but you’ve got to know we’re on a glide path to fixing this,” Lamont said. “And this fiscal crisis is going to be receding over the horizon.”

Senate Republican lead Len Fasano, R-North Haven, applauded Lamont for his stance on borrowing.

“For years, Gov. Malloy used the state’s credit card as a way to assure allegiances, borrowing to pay for political handouts,” Fasano said. “Those actions increased Connecticut’s bonded indebtedness by $6 billion, skyrocketing fixed costs and making it more difficult to fund core services. I agree with Gov. Lamont that we need to refocus on the true purpose of bonding and prioritize the state’s needs over its wants.”

Lamont is tasked with closing a $1.5 billion budget deficit the first year and $2.3 billion in the second year of his two-year budget proposal. However, those problems are compounded by struggles including funding the teachers pension system.

The announcement regarding his bond diet comes one day after the governor announced he wants to improve drivers experience with the Department of Motor Vehicles by extending the time between driver’s license renewals from six years to eight years, and the time between registrations from two years to three years.

Lamont also announced he wants to impose a sales tax on digital downloads of things such as Netflix movies. There’s currently a one percent tax on digital downloads that was approved as part of the budget in 2015.

“The entire digital piece of our economy is tax free and they’re competing with folks who do pay taxes,” Lamont said. “The revenue is going to ramp up slowly.”

He declined to say how much revenue he planned to see from the tax or exactly what rate he would impose.

Gov. Ned Lamont remarks following Greater Waterbury Chamber breakfast

Posted by on Tuesday, February 12, 2019