In the concluding part of his sit-down with the Business Journal’s Kevin Zimmerman, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont discusses the legalization of sports betting and the recreational use of marijuana, improving the state’s infrastructure, and his thoughts on Dan Malloy and Donald Trump — as well as more about his opponent Bob Stefanowski.
You’ve indicated that legalizing sports betting and recreational marijuana could be valuable revenue streams for the state.
“Sports betting is a multibillion-dollar industry. There’s no reason we can’t make a little revenue for the state, like everyone else is.
“With marijuana, we can collect tax on that. We will regulate it to make sure all the bad stuff is not getting into it and make some revenue off of it. Colorado has been doing it for five years now and has proven they know what they’re doing with a careful and responsible approach. And it sure as hell beats opioids and a lot of the other crap that people put into their system.”
What kind of revenue would you anticipate the state making from legalized marijuana?
“$50 (million) to $70 million.”
How do you respond to those who warn of the possible societal effects of gambling and marijuana — that they “draw the wrong crowd” or that they cause more problems than they’re worth?
“Look, I have three kids. One of the greatest ills we have is illegal drugs. What I would do is go after the pushers who are selling poison, as we saw not long ago with the New Haven Green incident. (Dozens of overdoses were recorded as a result of concertgoers using K2, a synthetic cannabinoid.)
“As for betting, I don’t think we’re going to wind up with a bunch of Jack the Rippers stalking the streets. We will regulate both of those areas and watch them like a hawk.”
How do you go about keeping companies in Connecticut?
“When GE made the decision to leave (Fairfield for Boston), I brought them together with leaders from business and labor and politicians to talk about why. They said three things: That we’re not training the right workforce for the skills they needed, that you can’t get (to Fairfield) because of the state of 95,and that we need to get our fiscal house in order.
“To address that, I have established three priorities: My jobs plan, improving rail service — it takes longer to get to New York City from New Canaan than it did 10 years ago — and improving quality of life.
“I’m going to be a champion for business in this state. Before running for governor I helped to get Infosys to come here and they’re going to be creating 1,000 jobs in the very near future. But it’s the business community that sold it — I just got them to the table.
“Now Aetna (which before merging with CVS planned to relocate from Hartford to New York City) is saying, ‘Maybe we should give Connecticut a second look.’”
Nevertheless, companies have been leaving the state. If elected, how would you go about preventing that from happening?
“I would establish a business advisory board that would oversee the DECD (Department of Economic and Community Development), and I would take the lead. When MassMutual said it was leaving (the company announced in February that it was pulling out of Enfield and taking 1,500 jobs to Massachusetts), it took DECD by surprise — they didn’t know about it ahead of time. The same thing happened with Alexion (which last year announced it was leaving New Haven for Boston).
“My approach would be that the governor’s door is always open. I’ve met with all the CEOs — they know me and I know them. If they’re teed off about not being able to get the right workforce or something else and I know about it, I’ll be able to respond.”
Circling back to your plan to improve train service in the state — that’s obviously going to rely on the federal government to a significant degree.
“We have to explore ways of leveraging the money that will take. John Larson (Democratic U.S. Representative from the 1st District) is on the House Ways and Means Committee, and he can leverage some federal dollars as well.”
Speaking of the federal government: What is your relationship with Donald Trump? Have you ever met him?
“I don’t think I’ve ever met him in person. But as governor you’re going to have to work with the president. I certainly disagree with him on a lot of issues and I will stand up for Connecticut values. I don’t agree with him on reproduction rights, the environment and the Trump tax bill is going to cost a billion dollars.
“But putting that aside, I will do everything I can to work with the federal government to do better for the state. With transportation, we really need some help there.”
Mr. Stefanowski continues to compare you with Governor Malloy in a negative way. How do you respond to that?
“It’s incredibly false. For one thing, I challenged (Malloy) back in 2010 and said that the governor’s job was to fix our fiscal crisis — which has only gotten worse.
“Malloy inherited an enormous deficit, which was 20 percent of the overall budget, and when it came to pensions the cupboard was bare. But instead of pushing budget problems down the road, I have very specific plans for dealing with them.
“I’m still waiting to hear specifics from Stefanowski. How is he going to get us where we need to go? He can talk about Malloy and eliminating the income tax all he wants, but what he is actually going to do? When February rolls around you have to have a budget on the table that fixes our $2.5 billion hole.”
Given all the issues facing the state, I’m curious: If elected, what is the very first thing you would do?
“I’d bring (Senate Republican President Pro Tempore) Len Fasano and (Senate President Pro Tempore) Martin Looney in there and say, ‘Here we are, folks. None of you have fixed this for eight years. It’s time that we work together to be a part of the solution.’
“I’m willing to take the hit for every unpopular decision that needs to be made and to share the credit whenever it deserves to be shared.”