MERIDEN — Gov. Ned Lamont agreed Thursday to lower state flags to half-staff on Saturday at the request of a mother who lost her son to a drug overdose in January.
Ceci Illiff, of Gales Ferry, was in the audience to listen to Lamont’s address to the business, political and non-profit community. She asked if he would consider lowering flags on International Drug Overdose Awareness Day.
“Now that you told me about it, I will,” Lamont said from the podium.
Lamont addressed a crowd of about 200 at Il Monticello restaurant for an event hosted by the Midstate Chamber of Commerce and chambers in Hamden and Cheshrie.
Illiff founded the Charity Challenge five years before her son Benjamin Illiff’s death from a heroin overdose. Charity Challenge hosts multiple events each year, raising money for agencies like TriCircle Inc. of Wallingford, which creates individualized, 15-month addiction treatment programs for clients.
Illiff said she was satisfied with the governor’s recognition that the problem of drug addiction and overdose deserves more attention. She would also like to see more help from insurance companies.
During the address, Lamont gave himself a B+ for his first nine months in office, touting the passage of a budget on time, efforts to decrease pension obligations and the elimination of $450 million in fixed costs.
“I think it’s the most honest budget we’ve had for many years,” Lamont said. “We got a lot of work to do. We inherited $100 million in past-due obligations.”
Bonded indebtedness went up over $600 million over six years, he said.
“A lot of that is transportation,” Lamont said. “Our transportation system is in gridlock. We’ve made some investments but our state is in gridlock. Those investments over a period are valuable.”
Instead of sweeping statewide improvements, Lamont pointed to specific projects including the I-91, I-691 interchange in Meriden.
“There are some fundamental things we can do,” Lamont said. The question is ‘how do you pay for it?’ My hope is we reach some sort of a compromise.”
The business community had questions about workforce and education, pointing out a substantial percentage of the workforce is expected to retire in the next four or five years.
Plans include giving employers tax credits for student loan payments, internships, and more work with community colleges.
He pledged to provide better fiscal stability for the business community and touted a pipeline of new companies looking at Connecticut.
Lamont was also asked about the recent disagreement between the state Department of Public Health and his office over releasing the numbers of unvaccinated children in state schools.
“As governor, my responsibility is to public health,” Lamont said. “We’re doing everything we can to prevent the outbreak of disease.”