Governor Ned Lamont: Announcements on wind, lottery to come soon

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Norwich — Gov. Ned Lamont expects an announcement in the next 48 hours from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on who will supply offshore wind power to Connecticut, saying he's been excluded from that process, "but I'm pretty sure they're making that announcement tomorrow or the next day."

He anticipates the expected Eversource-Ørsted deal to transform State Pier in New London into an offshore wind hub to go before the Connecticut Port Authority for a vote in the next few weeks.

Lamont also said he plans to announce his appointment of a new head of the lottery commission — someone who is "very active in digital media, and a consultant on some sports betting things" — in the next couple of weeks. (Connecticut Lottery Corporation spokesperson Tara Chozet later clarified that Lamont will not be appointing a new president and CEO but a new chairman of the board for CT Lottery, a position that has been vacant since January.)

He is thinking about doing another request for proposals on Seaside State Park "that gives people more flexibility," though he didn't offer a timeline.

These are some of the plans Lamont discussed both as the keynote speaker at a business breakfast the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut held at the Holiday Inn Norwich on Tuesday, and speaking to reporters afterward.

"I'm not allowed to invest anymore, but if I was, I'd be investing in eastern Connecticut," he said, speaking to a crowd who had dug out their cars from early morning snow to be there. "I'd be investing in eastern Connecticut not just because you're all sitting here in front of me, but you really have such economic momentum."

He pointed to Monday's announcement of the Navy and Electric Boat finalizing a $22.2 billion shipbuilding contract. With the corresponding growth in jobs, Lamont said now is "an amazing time to upgrade our housing stock, invest in downtown Norwich and Groton and New London, and to bring those cities to life."

Introducing the governor, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler advocated for passage of the Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act, which he said would allow sports betting and result in another $10 million for state tourism marketing.

On tourism, Lamont said, "I got to admit, I didn't do that great, but we got more money to tourism." Later saying that you "can't have tourism unless people get here," he segued into talking about how to pay for upgrades to roads and bridges.

Taking aim at two Republican plans, the governor said, "I've come up with a plan that doesn't put $700 million a year on the backs of the Connecticut taxpayers through more and more and more borrowing. We've come up with a plan which doesn't raid the rainy day fund."

The rainy day fund is now $2.5 billion, and Lamont says he is "going to make damn sure we're ready" in the event of an economic downturn or recession, so he doesn't have to cut back on state aid, increase taxes or do a lot of layoffs. The latest Democratic plan calls for trucks-only tolls.

Susy Hurlbert, CEO of the Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors, asked if there were any rebates or credits so shoreline residents don't have to bear the burden of tolls.

Lamont said the plan is trucks-only, 40 percent would be paid by people out of state, and local merchants who may go over the Gold Star Memorial Bridge multiple times per day will only pay once per day.

Asked by state Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, about the governor's next three priorities, Lamont responded in part by saying he will "focus like a laser beam on economic development" in the next legislative session.

That will include "speeding up all the certifications and environmental permitting we need to make it easier for somebody to start a business," he said. "The government's got a bad case of the slows. I don't know why everything takes so long, and we're doing everything we can to focus on that."

e.moser@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version clarifies Gov. Ned Lamont's statement on appointing someone new at the Connecticut Lottery Corporation.

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