Campus correspondent Andrew Miano interviewed Democratic candidate for the governor of Connecticut Ned Lamont over the phone on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Lamont addressed the 2018 Election, infrastructure spending and his vision for Connecticut. The full transcript of the interview follows.
Andrew Miano: It’s fairly well known that Dan Malloy is one of the least popular governors in the nation. Do you think it is possible for a Democratic candidate like yourself to escape the negative wave of his unpopularity?
Ned Lamont: I think I’m the Democrat best able to win in November. You know, I challenged Dan Malloy eight years ago, so I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not Dan Malloy’s third term. Although, I’m not someone who blames him for the fiscal mess our state is in. He inherited a big mess. And I’m also not somebody who’s been in Hartford for the last 10 or 20 or 30 years when a lot of this mess was created, so I think the best chance for a Democrat to win is somebody from the outside, willing to challenge the old way of business in Hartford, challenge the entrenched interests, and that’s what I’ve done my whole life.
Miano: In his most recent budget proposal, Governor Malloy proposed increasing taxes on gas and cigarettes and also adding tolls throughout Connecticut. Do you agree with his proposal? And what will you do as governor to reduce the deficit?
Lamont: Look, we have incredibly aging infrastructure. They just decided not to repair roads and bridges to the tune of $4 billion. That’s dangerous. That’s not a way that we can go. We’ve got to invest in our transportation infrastructure, otherwise our strategic location, which is one of Connecticut’s amazing advantages, becomes a big negative. So right now I don’t see any alternative to some form of electronic tolling. We’ll walk before we run there, but I can’t think of a better alternative. I think jacking up the gas tax is not working and is punitive and I think the idea of bonding even more just puts more debt on our books. So I think electronic tolling makes sense.
Miano: Would you be in favor of earmarking the toll revenues for transportation infrastructure spending?
Lamont: I would. Nobody trusts the politicians. So let’s put that into the lockbox and let everybody rest easy. This money is going for transportation.
Miano: And as for the deficit, what do you hope to do as governor to lower it?
Lamont: We’ve had a billion dollar deficit for as far as the eye can see and that’s casting a real pall of pessimism over the entire state. It’s giving businesses a reason not to invest, it’s making it so teachers and parents don’t know if that class is going to be available in the fall. I will fix that. I will get a budget that is on time and truly balanced, and I think it’s going to take spending and revenues. You know, on revenues, it’s not a question of raising this rate or that rate; that’s the wrong way to go. I think A. you can talk about electronic tolling when it comes to transportation, and B. perhaps expanding the sales tax base to include more e-commerce and even services so that we can really have a reliable and predictable revenue stream. And on the spending side, I started up a business; I had a different background than these other cats. We provided a better service and less cost than the cable TV utilities and that’s how we beat ‘em. I think you need a little bit of that entrepreneurial spirit up in Hartford to see if we can deliver better services at less cost in our state delivery of services.
Miano: You mentioned your history as a businessman, but you also have experience as a teacher in higher education. Given the vast funding cuts proposed to the University of Connecticut and the state university consolidation, what do you think needs to be done to protect higher education in Connecticut?
Lamont: Young people have got to vote. I teach up at Central Connecticut State (University), and as I point out everywhere I go that 70 percent of 70-year-olds vote and 30 percent of the 30 year olds vote, and that’s why tuition is more than doubled over the last decade. You’ve got to vote and fight for investing in our young people, investing in education, and investing in UConn. So what I’m gonna do is honestly balance the budget, stop borrowing from the future, then start investing. And, first and foremost, is to make college affordable.
Miano: Shifting back to the election, House Republicans under the leadership of Themis Klarides are confident they’ll be able to take control of the House in 2018. Do you believe there is any credence to this, and would you be open to working on a bipartisan basis with the state legislature as governor?
Lamont: Look, I’m open to working with anybody, but I give the Democrats the best chance to hold the House and the Senate because I represent real change. If we’re going to be defending the status quo, we’re not going to win. You know, Democrats have always been for change and progress and that’s what it means to be a progressive, and I represent that real change. That’s how we win.
Miano: And finally, Governor Malloy laid out his vision for Connecticut in his State of the State address. What is your vision for the future of Connecticut?
Lamont: The future of Connecticut is strong urban centers, an honestly balanced budget, businesses that know what Connecticut will be over the next five and 10 years, progress on transportation, investment in education and growth for jobs. We don’t need more taxes, we need more taxpayers. So stick around, don’t leave, stay with Connecticut.
Andrew Miano is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.