Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz outside union headquarters in Meriden last week. Credit: Christine Stuart photo

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont bested Republican Bob Stefanowski by more than 40,000 votes, or 3.2%, in the 2018 election and he wants another four years as governor of Connecticut. On Thursday he sat down with WNPR’s Lucy Nalpathanchil to talk about his campaign and some of the differences between him and Stefanowski. Stefanowski appeared on the same program on Tuesday.

The two candidates have differed on the issue of taxes, public safety, and health care.

Stefanowski pointed out during his interview that Connecticut’s state police force is down about 400 troopers and he says Connecticut is less safe because of the police accountability bill passed by the legislature in 2020 following the shooting of George Floyd. 

“There’s no question Lucy that coming out of COVID there was a lot of extreme behavior,” Lamont said Thursday. “We had more car accidents, we had more shootings, we had more suicides.” 

However, Lamont said that extreme behavior is beginning to be mitigated. 

“But let’s remember the fundamental fact, Connecticut is one of the safest states in the country so don’t bad mouth the hard work our police do,” Lamont said. 

When it comes to the increase in traffic fatalities Lamont encouraged conversation. 

An estimated 190 people were killed on Connecticut roadways this year and traffic fatalities were up 5% in 2021, according to QuoteWizard by LendingTree. 

“Mainly you’ve just gotta talk to your friends, talk to your kids,” Lamont said. “They’re not just risking their lives, they’re risking the lives of people around them.” 

When it comes to health care costs in Connecticut the more than 200,000 residents who get their insurance through the exchange or small group policies regulated by the state will see their premiums increase nearly 13% next year. 

“The good news Lucy is thanks to the federal government we’ve got significant subsidies,” Lamont said. “Small businesses and individuals will find significant savings on the exchange.” 

Lamont said for those who purchase plans on the exchange they will be able to off-set those increases with federal subsidies through the Inflation Reduction Act. 

But that’s not a permanent solution. 

Lamont admitted that it doesn’t lower the cost of health care, which is driving those premium increases. 

“To deal with rising costs – deal with the rising costs. The rising costs of healthcare are related to hospitalization and pharmaceutical[s],” Lamont said. “That’s what my real focus is.”

But the solution for Lamont is not a public option. 

Republican lawmakers have suggested other proposals like a reinsurance waiver to cover the most costly care, but Lamont and Democratic lawmakers have refused to make a commitment of state dollars to access additional federal funds in that manner. 

Lamont said he would work hard with the hospitals to keep down costs in the future. 

As far as taxes are concerned, Lamont was critical of Stefanowski’s 2018 platform to eliminate the income tax. 

“That would have disseminated education and jacked up property tax big time,” Lamont told Nalpathanchil. 

Lamont touted the $100 million the legislature agreed to spend to lower car taxes in some communities and the changes he made in the threshold for the property taxes – the $24 billion state budget passed in May expands eligibility for a property tax credit from $200 to $300.

“Not everybody’s going to feel it,” Lamont admitted. 

“Some towns their houses went up in value a lot, but at least we provided a couple hundred million in additional property tax relief for people.” 

Stefanowski and Republicans say Connecticut is sitting on billions in surplus and should use some of that money to lower the tax burden for working families.