Editorial To new state leaders: Wear power responsibly
New leadership will take over the helm of the state of Connecticut on Wednesday. They face the sober task of steering the ship clear from the shoals of economic ruin and charting a realistic path to prosperity not for the few, but for the many who chose to live here.
For the first time in eight years, a new governor will be in control. Many new commissioners to lead the state’s top agencies will bring fresh perspectives. Gov.-elect Ned Lamont demonstrated an openness to gather ideas from a broad representation of constituents as he prepared for the transition and we hope his willingness to listen continues.
Fresh beginnings call for looking forward. But first, a reminder to build on the best of the past. Outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is leaving the state on firmer footing than when he took office in 2011. He understood that underfunded pension liabilities were going to push the state over the fiscal cliff — and he began the hard and mostly thankless work of turning it around. Future governors must continue the commitment to responsibly funding the pensions for state employees and teachers, while the Connecticut Pension Stability Commission prepares a final report on whether to transfer state real estate, or other assets, to the pensions.
While the election campaigns were about taxes, debt and attracting business, Malloy’s legacy may ultimately be about empathy. He showed true leadership on social issues, such as gender equality, health care, prison reform, fairness for Dreamers, and refugee settlement. Money is ephemeral, but these are the things that define our humanity.
On Wednesday a new General Assembly — 151 representatives and 36 senators — also will take office with a record 41 freshmen. Though now Connecticut will have a trifecta of Democratic leadership, the party in power must make every effort to work on solutions in a bipartisan fashion. As we have said many times, no one party or group has a lock on good ideas.
The primary job of legislators until the session ends on June 5 will be crafting a biennial state budget. This will be no easy task given that the deficit is projected for at least $1.5 billion. Please promise no gimmicks, nor “easy” remedies such as higher taxes. We encourage the state’s leaders to revisit recommendations in the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth report from March and its fall update.
Other than the all-important budget, the top three critical issues facing the new governor and General Assembly are transportation (how to relieve highway congestion, particularly along Interstate 95, Interstate 84 and the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways, repair crumbling bridges and improve commuter rail service); education (how to ensure urban and suburban children have equal access and the formula for state aid to municipalities is fair); and economic growth (help industries grow and add employees while attracting new businesses).
Most of all, don’t forget you represent all of the residents of Connecticut.