Megan Hayes | News Editor
CT's Democratic Governor Ned Lamont after his 2024 SOTS Address. / AP Photo, Jessica Hill
On Wednesday, February 7th, Connecticut's Governor Ned Lamont addressed residents with the 2024 "State of the State Address". For those who are not familiar with this speech, the State of the State (will be referred to as SOTS in this article) is an annual address by the governor of the state, which is presented to the House of Representatives (CT - 151 members) as well as the Senate (CT - 36 members). In Connecticut, on years that end in an even number, these two houses of legislature (together called the General Assembly) are in session from February to May (January to June on odd numbered years) to discuss all of the legal proceedings of the state. These topics are including but not limited to funding, access to money, public welfare, environmental concerns, and specific town concerns of public works as well as criminal and civil law. The General Assembly also handles recommendations on how to run things better within each jurisdiction, according to members representing the areas. The State of the State Address essentially tells both of these legislative houses what has been happening within the state - which mostly concerns financial issues.
In the 2024 SOTS Address, Ned Lamont mainly focused on some of the larger issues facing Connecticut - funding to schools, taxing of different socioeconomic status groups, and rising population. He nodded to Connecticut's "largest ever commitment to childcare, K-12 education, our universities, workforce training, and not-for-profits", which was a new state budget passed in June of 2023 by Connecticut's General Assembly to increase funding for education. This raises the budget historically to $26 billion, which will remain for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.
Lamont also spoke on a drastic population increase over the last few years due to all sorts of new reasons - more college graduates wanting to remain in Connecticut to start their careers, more businesses, labor unions with better benefits to support their workers, and more. However, this is bringing a problem to housing accessibility and affordability, especially considering the current state of economics of the United States. Many, if not most of us are affected daily with shockingly high prices for necessities like groceries, gas, and goods - which can partially be attributed to the soaring demand of these products post-pandemic. However, luckily over the last few months of 2023 and so far into the beginning of 2024, the inflation of prices have been rising more slowly then before - which we can begrudgingly be grateful for.
New aspects of affordable housing are being implemented, with supposed multi-family housing and elder care facilities being constructed in free space left by old apartments, cities and farming fields. Lamont points to Hartford, Connecticut, the capital of the state, which has recently built or have developed plans to build over 5,000 homes. He wishes to "bring this model across the State" to hopefully address the housing crisis in other areas as well. He compliments Meriden, downtown New London and Waterbury, three towns with new housing and shiny new amenities like parks to benefit the community. He also points to the new bike and walking trails all across Connecticut, thanks to the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). On top of this, he points the attention to Seila Mosquera-Bruno, the commissioner of housing, who is combatting homelessness and price increases by converting old hotels, motels and other abandoned commercial properties into supportive and temporary housing - where mental health services and addiction treatment are also offered.
Next, Lamont addressed transportation needs, stating how the funding for transportation in Connecticut has "been replenished", and is readied to bring access to all communities by providing rail services like "CTRail" and "CT Hartford Line". This train service is said to cut off time for commute by more numerous tracks as well as not having to slow down on old bridges (which was not addressed further).
However, to bolster all of this good news, Lamont addressed another beast in the room - climate change, and it's effect on weather in Connecticut. It is increasingly costing more and more to support the damage that climate change is doing, especially to our crops in rural areas - one month they are killed by drought, and the next they are underwater due to unpredictable torrential downpour. It is expensive any way we decide to deal with it - fixing the problems are expensive, and ignoring it will cost even more. As climate change remains a sensitive issue among many communities, Lamont pointed to other states dealing with these crises - namely Arizona, Florida and the wildfires that struck from Canada all the way to the bottom of the country. He uses this point to again push that Connecticut is doing it's best to remedy this issue by providing non-harmful and climate efficient energy options like wide-sourced nuclear power, solar, and other types of affordable clean energy.
The change in our culture over time was also mentioned, calling reference to the battles of racism and hate speech that overtook the state as well as the country, increased domestic abuse as well as drug abuse and overdose, and a cry for mental health services due to crisis starting at younger and younger ages. He states that "the budget is doing more", aiming to fix these issues and turn "hopelessness into hope, hardship into opportunity".
In terms of childcare and support for the younger generations, Lamont pointed to many initiatives - including but not limited to meal funding for hungry children, support for post-COVID attendance drops (called LEAP) to get more children to return reliably from the classroom, attention for students who are falling behind whether academically or socially, social enrichment programs and mental health services to help with Connecticut's ever-declining educational outcomes, which are especially affecting young children. For older college-age teens and young adults, Connecticut is pushing its students to transition to college by allowing auto-enrollment into the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities, making it more affordable through FAFSA and delegation of funds and grants to students. This was debatable though, as some are expressing "outrage" for the focus on early childhood care instead of continual funding for secondary and higher education, an idea that was discussed in session earlier in the day on Wednesday. Although there has been no apparent outcome from this proposal, and as of now this is just a suggestion, Connecticut residents are unsure how to deal with such an idea. Although the General Assembly passed the large educational grant, with an extra $150 million dollars in additional funds allocated to education alone, Lamont wants to stay within the bounds of the state's spending cap - reallocating around $52 million to magnet and charter programs, and $50 million for early childhood care programs - leaving not much left over to cover all of the necessary spending by public schools and universities alike.
Read the 2024 "State of the State Address" here: