Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont invited evaluation of his first 100 days in office, an arbitrary but traditional benchmark reached today, April 18.
He convened a gathering with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and the co-chairs of the 15 Transition Policy Working Groups this week to look back on his work since the Jan. 9 swearing in, a move that is illustrative of his style.
One of Lamont’s strengths as governor is a willingness to seek advice from experts, to listen, and then to act.
Entering the state’s highest office with no full-time elected experience, Lamont has done an admirable job in changing the tone for the positive.
“It was a state that was a little bit fractured,” he acknowledged. “I’m trying to bring people together.”
He deserves high credit for creating one of the most diverse administrations in state history, better reflective of Connecticut’s citizens. And there’s gender parity, a recommendation of a working group.
Early in his tenure he demonstrated compassion matched with innovation when he created a public-private partnership with financial institutions to provide interest-free loans to federal employees who were left without paychecks in the partial government shut down that extended into January. The plan passed with near unanimous support in the Legislature.
Lamont demonstrated nimble leadership when he wrote a 10-page memo to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos just days after the company announced it was withdrawing from building a headquarters in Queens, New York. Come to Stamford, Lamont pitched, and outlined the benefits. The governor refrained from political grandstanding for his effort; it came to light this week when Hearst Connecticut Media obtained the memo.
His first 100 days in office have not been all sunshine and rainbows. The governor drew criticism — and staunch grassroots opposition — when he changed his position on electronic tolls. In campaigning, he advocated tolls for tractor-trailer trucks only; but in mid-February he announced support for tolls for all, if state residents would get discounts. The reversal came after hearing from attorneys on limitations with the trucks-only scenario. Though we disagree with tolls, we do not fault Lamont for listening. He showed he is not stubbornly rigid.
The draft plan of 82 tolling spots was dropped to 50 on interstates used most by out-of-state drivers. Similarly, he scaled back his plan for consolidation of school services, after fierce criticism from education districts.
Lamont put Connecticut on a “debt diet,” limiting borrowing to only projects tied to economic or workforce development or cost-sharing services. The state did need to reduce bonding, but we have concerns that necessary projects, such as affordable housing, will be harmed.
His other legislative priorities, such as paid family and medical leave, a minimum wage increase, and legalization of recreational marijuana and sports betting, have been passed by committees but are hardly guaranteed embrace on the House and Senate floors.
At his inauguration 100 days ago, Gov. Lamont declared “This is the chance to reinvent Connecticut — to think big, act boldly.” He is off to a good start, but the proof won’t be until June when — or if — a balanced budget is adopted.