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Governor-elect knows where the jobs are

November 13, 2018

It cannot be a bad thing when the incoming governor decides to make your part of the state the first place he visits as he forms his economic strategy. And looking at the opportunities, Governor-elect Ned Lamont made the right choice.

Lamont, fresh off his narrow victory over Republican Bob Stefanowski, appeared Friday at the Garde Arts Center in New London to meet with a variety of business, civic and community leaders.

Given the short notice of the meeting, the variety of groups and individuals in attendance was impressive. They included representatives from Deepwater Wind, the company that plans to use State Pier as a staging area for construction of offshore wind turbines. Also present were leaders from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, operators of the Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun casinos.

There to meet the governor were officials from the Mystic Seaport, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, and the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, which promotes the importance of arts, culture and tourism in the region for both the quality of life and its economic health.

Lamont later visited with the leadership of Electric Boat.

It is heartening to note that the incoming governor, a Democrat, invited Republican and Democratic leaders alike and they responded, including three local state senators — Sen. Heather Somers of Groton and Sen. Paul Formica of East Lyme, both Republicans, and Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague, a Democrat.

Lamont recognizes that economic expansion and job growth will be the measures by which his administration will be judged.

The next governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature he will be working with cannot escape making some unpopular decisions to stabilize the state’s finances. The governor-elect has said structural change is necessary to alter a long-term trend that points to continued deficit spending. Lamont appears to recognize that spending the Rainy Day Fund, diverting payments to pensions, or using unrealistic revenue projections may get Connecticut through another year or two, but won’t fix the problem.

Instead, if they genuinely want fiscal stability, the incoming governor and Democrats will have to make some difficult spending cuts, seek further labor savings through concessions and, quite possibly, have to raise taxes in some form.

But if Lamont can lead a reinvigorated economy, the dynamics and the fiscal numbers change for the better. And, Lamont knows, southeastern Connecticut offers bright prospects in that regard.

Benefitting from increased submarine production, EB continues to grow its workforce and is expanding its shipyard in Groton. The development of a wind-power industry in New London should create more good-paying jobs. Meanwhile the region’s tourism and arts industry stands to benefit if it can tap more visitors from surrounding states that have seen economic growth.

The task of the incoming administration is to take full advantage of these opportunities. It needs to support training programs that feed the job growth. While making sure that state regulators do their jobs of protecting the environment and safety, the administration must also work to make that regulatory work efficient and convenient. And Lamont and the legislature must find the means to invest in the state’s transportation infrastructure to effectively move goods and people.

Even in tough fiscal times, Connecticut must invest in promoting tourism.

The election is over and attention should turn to making Connecticut better. In time, we suspect, party leaders will retreat to their respective corners on many important issues, but Lamont’s pledge to consider good ideas wherever they come from is encouraging. He should work to sustain that approach even after the honeymoon phase ends.

We had one disappointment and that was the decision by Lamont to close his meeting with local leaders and prohibit any press. Instead Lamont gave reporters the chance to talk with him and other leaders during a news conference that followed the closed-door meeting.

While not legally bound to open the meeting, Lamont should have done so. This kind of gathering does not involve negotiations or trade secrets. The press, representing the interests of the public, should have been allowed in to hear the discussion.

We will chalk this one up to a rookie mistake by the incoming governor and urge him to opt for transparency going forward. 

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