CROMWELL, CT — For years, Connecticut governors have used their annual holiday address at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce to deliver some light-hearted remarks and Gov. Ned Lamont didn’t disappoint.
After an eight-year hiatus during former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration, Lamont sought to bring back some humor to the annual holiday address.
Former Gov. John G. Rowland started the tradition by penning a parody of a classic Christmas poem every year for the event. After former First Lady Patty Rowland’s poem criticizing the media coverage of her husband fell flat during Rowland’s last year in office, former Gov. M. Jodi Rell changed the tradition slightly by creating a Yuletide list of items for various public figures. Malloy refused to add humor to his remarks.
Toward the end of his 20-minutes of remarks Friday, which were sprinkled with humor and reflections on his first year in office, Lamont invited Senate Republican President Len Fasano to the podium.
Lamont and Fasano have been at odds over how to improve Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure, but the two remain friendly giving the governor’s lingering hope for a bipartisan solution.
“Are you going to be naughty or nice?” Lamont asked Fasano before turning over the microphone.
Fasano used the opportunity to rewrite the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
The poem was focused on the toll debate.
“‘Twas the days before Christmas, an event at the Chamber, Governor Lamont invited me to meet its members.
A yearly tradition the Governor did say, and asked if I would come and stay. So here I am to give it a try, and in true Governor spirit, I came without a tie.
All the tables dressed with various dishes, as Governor Lamont will tell of his holiday wishes.
He stood and stories he told, of large hoops these thing we call tolls.
He tried to sell his plan from town to town, but he was met with people who had large frowns.
Still he went toe to toe, stating to fix the roads we need more dough.
As he talked about tolls for our roads to be fixed, many of us thought this plan must be nixed.
A plan we did unmask, to give people back dollars that were over-taxed.
The Dems said it can’t be done, besides we need to tax everyone.
Still on the road with all of his bluster, a majority of the votes he couldn’t muster. The Dem votes for tolls isn’t easy, the elections of 2020 made them queasy.
I can hear the Governor – on Senate! on Dems! we need to toll and to toll them! Only trucks there should be fuss, I am your leader give me your trust. The delay of the vote is now all but certain, some think that is the tolls’ final curtain.
And, so I can say for this holiday season, your money is safe and it is for this reason.
For at least this year, I can say with glee, the roads in Connecticut will remain tax free. And so I say as I leave your sight, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”
Lamont said after the event that he had no idea what to expect from Fasano when he invited him to the stage.
“I just said we’re trying to change the tone in this building,” Lamont said of his invite to Fasano. “He’s someone I work constructively, collaboratively with. We compare notes a lot.”
Lamont remained confident the Democratic legislature would get a truck-only tolling proposal passed early in January, despite Fasano’s poem.
Lamont said he’s working closely with the legislature and he knows they don’t want to “kick the can down the road and they don’t want to raid the Rainy Day Fund,” when it comes to improving Connecticut’s infrastructure.
Lamont has struggled working with the legislature in his first year in office, but he maintained that he’s made progress by getting a budget passed on time, not raising tax rates, and getting a minimum-wage increase and paid family and medical leave passed.
During his prepared remarks, Lamont, whose favorite musical is Hamilton, joked about how he’s had difficulty adjusting to public life and the public nature of negotiations.
He said the lyrics to the song “Where It Happened,” say, “No one else was in the room where it happened.”
It’s about when Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton get together for a private meeting and reached an agreement, Lamont explained.
“They reached an agreement and held the country together. It probably would have been a little tougher if Kevin Rennie was blind copying all of Thomas Jefferson’s emails,” Lamont said. “Or if Mark Davis had the TV camera the whole time they were trying to get a conversation going.”
About 18 minutes into his remarks Friday, Lamont joked that he successfully avoided the word “tolls.”
He said Connecticut got an editorial note in The Wall Street Journal the other day that said “Lamont and his administration inherited a deep hole. At least he stopped digging.”
“Ok, I’ll take that,” Lamont said.
Lamont cited the Bloomberg report on Connecticut’s recent bond sale.
“Connecticut has gone from trading like a triple B to an A rated bond that’s consistent with our internal view,” Guy Davidson, chief investment officer of municipal investments at Alliance Bernstein, told Bloomberg News.
Lamont then went onto joke that his deputy communications director, Rob Blanchard, told him that at the annual legislative holiday party they can’t have “Tollhouse” cookies, they should have “user fee cookies.”
After the laughs, Lamont said they would fix the transportation system in an honest way.
“At the end of the day we’re all in this because we love the great state of Connecticut,” Lamont said. “We’re all here to make a difference.”