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

HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont asked more than 300 business executives Thursday for their help recruiting businesses and getting the legislature to embrace tolls.

The governor who released his first $43 billion two-year budget proposal a week ago said he made a deal with Connecticut taxpayers when he was running for office when it comes to taxes.

“I said I’m not interested in raising any tax rates. I’m not interested in raising income tax rate. I don’t want to raise the sales tax rate. I’m not raising the corporate income tax rate, but I do need more help from you,” Lamont said.

Lamont’s budget does maintain the current 10 percent corporate tax surcharge and it expands sales taxes to a number of services to raise more than $1 billion over two years.

“I’ve got to convince the legislature that this fiscal thing is not global warming or the federal debt clock. It’s not some iceberg that’s over the horizon. It’s something we have to deal with now,” Lamont said referring to the unfunded pension liabilities and fixed costs in Connecticut’s budget.

Lamont said his budget is honest about the fiscal problems the state is confronting.

One of those problems is Connecticut’s aging transportation system. Even though there’s no revenue in the two-year budget for tolls, Lamont needs legislative support in order to get them built and going.

“I think everybody knows its a problem,” Lamont said.

“How about the gridlock? I can’t get my workers to the office, our customers can’t get there.”

He said real estate agents never show commercial property in Stamford during rush hour.

“It just doesn’t send the right message,” Lamont said. “I’ve got to come up with a plan to slowly rebuild our roads and bridges. It’s not just a public safety thing.”

He said he wants to reduce traffic with congestion pricing. He said he’s learned that if you get 5 percent of the cars off the road, traffic will go 25 percent faster.

“To be blunt, the gasoline tax which used to be the engine of our transportation money is disappearing as a source of revenue,” Lamont said. “Can you spell Tesla.”

He said he needs the help of the business community and the labor community to get this over the finish line.

“It’s pretty contentious,” Lamont, who seems to be putting a lot of his political capital behind the issue, said.

He said some people view tolls as another tax and believe it’s going to be spent inappropriately.

“I need people to help step up on this,” Lamont said.

But not everyone was willing to embrace it.

David Griggs, president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, said if it simply creates a “commuter tax—that’s hard to get behind, but if it’s a fair and equitable distribution of the burden then I think so.”

Lamont said speeding up how Connecticut residents move around the state will be “transformative.”

He said he won’t be able to get it all done in four years, but he wants to give people a sense of where they are headed.

“I’ve just got to give everyone a sense of what this state could look like,” Lamont said.

Lamont said that’s what Hartford business leaders did when they convinced Infosys , an Indian technology company, to open up an innovation hub in Hartford.

Lamont said over the next few weeks Infosys will announce it plans on doubling its workforce in Connecticut less than a year after opening its downtown office in Goodwin Square.

“We’re going to have the best trained, best educated, most productive workforce in the world,” Lamont said. “That is our calling card.”

Infosys committed to hiring 1,000 Connecticut workers by 2022 last March.

Gov. Ned Lamont addresses MetroHartford Alliance

Posted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Thursday, February 28, 2019