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    Thursday, November 30, 2023

    Why Bates won't run for governor

    A few weeks ago, elected leaders from southeastern Connecticut asked that I consider conducting a campaign to become the next governor of Connecticut. Since then I’ve spent time traveling across the state, listening to a lot of people and thinking about how Connecticut can meet the challenges that face us today and in the years ahead.

    I learned that many voters lack confidence in our political system, but that we have faith in our friends and neighbors. I learned that it will take time to overcome the economic and financial challenges we face, but that there are ways forward. I became convinced that Connecticut’s future depends on all of us coming together, regardless of Party, to rally around an economic growth and job creation strategy that ensures we can win the global economic competition of the 21st century.

    I grew up in a middle-class family in the small town of Mystic. My father grew up in poverty but was able to live his dreams as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. My mother held the family together and made ends meet (though how she did it, I’ll never know). Our parents worked hard so that we had a shot at a better life, and in yesterday’s America that was the rule, not the exception. Today, the globalization of labor and capital along with the rise of automation and technology have created untold opportunity for a few, and unprecedented disruption for the many.

    Middle-class struggle

    We know the symptoms of this great disruption. It’s harder than ever for the middle class to hold their ground let alone aspire to a better life. Greater demands are placed on social services to care for those who cannot take part in the new economy. Stressed out families trying to make ends meet don’t have time for the social groups and that once formed the ties that bound us together. The wealthy experience a different reality from the many, and may feel overwhelmed by the problems they see. As a result, some opt out of the social contract that once helped us succeed together.

    I’ll put three ideas out there that I think should be at the core of our governing agenda in Connecticut.

    First, we need to double down on our investment in workforce development so all of Connecticut’s workers can master the technology that drives job creation and attracts business relocation and expansion. We should commit to community colleges serving as hubs for workforce development and create new centers in places like New London, Norwich and the Naugatuck Valley to make sure a high school degree can still get you a ticket into the middle class.

    Second, we must rebuild our ports, airports and railways so that we can move people and goods faster than any of our regional competitors. This means investing in the port facilities of New London, New Haven and Bridgeport. It means improving freight rail lines to move the heaviest cargo in to the national rail network. It means making sure that entrepreneurs and business people living anywhere in the state can reliably commute to the economic growth centers of New York and Boston. This means major investments – not marginal ones.

    Third, we must ensure that all citizens of Connecticut have access to affordable housing. In an era when economic disruption is a hallmark of life, putting a firm foundation under our people and a roof over their heads helps avoid social dislocation and all its costs. Half of Connecticut's renters and nearly a third of homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. That leaves too little for food, clothing, childcare, and other basics. And these citizens’ lack of money to spend on other items hurts our state's economy. Building 50,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade is the right place to start, and it is the smart thing to do − for our citizens, our communities, and our employers.

    Bipartisan solutions

    What better way to attract the entrepreneurs and investment necessary to succeed in the 21st century than having a well-trained workforce, with adequate housing, connected to the world and able to move people and goods faster than our competitors? To get there, we all must think differently.

    Democrats will need to accept more efficient ways of delivering social services to achieve even greater impacts. Republicans will need to put aside the idea that across the board tax cuts will create the kind of economic growth we need. Investment in economic growth is of great value. Austerity for its own sake is no great virtue.

    In the short term, we will have to spend to build. We can do it through bond funding to jump start the economy, train the next generation of workers and give our children a better Connecticut. Managing decline, pointing fingers, and engaging in the politics of resentment is no future for any of us. Bold steps to take control of our own destiny are what once made us great and what Connecticut needs in the years ahead.

    I am confident we can move forward together. I am confident that there are leaders with the ability to move our state forward. For my part, I’ve thought long and hard about how I can best help, and I keep coming back to thoughts of my father. He believed in doing your duty, and never doing a job halfway. With that in mind, I need to carry out the duties of my role as Deputy Secretary of the State and do all I can as chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority to help build the infrastructure that creates jobs and economic growth. I can’t do either job right from the campaign trail running for governor. I look forward to doing all I can to advance these ideas. The change we need will not come from one leader or a new governor alone. It will need to come from all of us across our great state of Connecticut.

    Scott Bates is Deputy Secretary of the State and chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority Board of Directors. He lives with his wife and son in his hometown of Stonington.

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