GUILFORD – One of the greatest challenges State Rep. Sean Scanlon sees in his exploratory run for State Comptroller is simply making people aware of what the job entails.
“A lot of people don’t know what the office does, but what the office does is relevant to a lot of people,” Scanlon said in an interview with CT Examiner, listing scrutiny of state spending and managing the state employee and retiree health plans as the main tasks. “I think that job is more important than ever because of what we’ve faced in the last two years with COVID and to figure out what the next generation of Connecticut will look like.”
The 35-year-old Democrat, a legislator for the last eight years, is the only announced potential candidate for the office in this fall’s election in the wake of the recent resignation of longtime Democrat Comptroller Kevin Lembo for health reasons.
Natalie Braswell, selected by Gov. Ned Lamont to fill the remainder of Lembo’s third four-year term, is not expected to run. She spent ten years in the comptroller’s office as general counsel and assistant comptroller under Lembo before taking a position with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection last year.
Scanlon said his experience as House chairman of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, as well as his previous four years as chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, give him a solid foundation for the job, one of six statewide elected offices.
But perhaps just as crucial, he said, is the high level of independence he says he would bring to the office, which monitors the state budget and revenues and makes monthly recommendations on spending to the Governor.
“You’re the person who people are electing to tell the truth about what’s going on with the budget, whether that means going against your own party or the other party,” Scanlon said, noting that he has voted against state budgets proposed by fellow Democrats. “I think being independent in that office is really, really important.”
Asked to assess Lamont’s fiscal track record, Scanlon said:
“I think Governor Lamont has done a tremendous job of steering our state through COVID and doing so in a very fiscally responsible manner.”
Lembo, a fellow Guilford resident who Scanlon described as a friend, was known for his advocacy on a variety of health and financial issues, and his initiatives to increase public access to details about state spending and other data through websites his office created.
Scanlon said he would continue to follow Lembo’s lead in that regard, and would perhaps drill down even further into the depths of analyzing and advocating on state budget issues.
That will be particularly vital, he said, as the billions in federal COVID-relief funding that the state receives begins to dry up.
“The office has an accounts payable division with the ability to audit every expense,” Scanlon said of the agency that employs about 250 people. “I think a soup-to-nuts look at what’s happening from the state budget perspective is more important now than ever as we figure out a way to transition away from all the federal money we’ve gotten to a more affordable, sustainable path.”
Regarding health care, Scanlon points to his time on the Insurance and Real Estate Committee as a model for the approach he would bring as Comptroller, who can influence health care policy through administration of the state medical plan covering more than 200,000 employees and retirees, as well as programs allowing municipalities to cover their workers though the state plan.
Scanlon’s legislative website says that he “wrote and passed legislation protecting people with pre-existing conditions from insurance discrimination, establishing the lowest monthly co-pay cap for insulin in the nation at $25, preventing insurance companies from covering mental health different than physical health, requiring health insurance plans to cover ten “Essential Health Benefits” such as maternity care and hospital visits, creating Connecticut’s first prescription drug price transparency law requiring drug companies to justify large price increases, and instituting the first insurance and consumer safety standards for ride-share services like Uber and Lyft.”
“I really got to know all the players in the insurance industry and got to understand the business,” he said. “I think that really prepared me to be able to do this job and do all these wonky things.”
Scanlon, a longtime staff member of Democrat U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, was named executive director of the Tweed Regional Airport Authority in New Haven last fall, and is overseeing a major expansion of the airport.
He said he raised over $40,000 in the first week following the formation of his exploratory committee for statewide office earlier this month.
Asked if his potential run for Comptroller is a move intended to further his political career, Scanlon said:
“I’m not thinking about what that will lead me to. I’ve got a pretty good gig right now where I can make a difference in things I care about personally. I’m thinking about whether I can make a difference as Comptroller relative to what I’m doing today and that’s the choice I have to make in the coming weeks in terms of deciding whether I ultimately want to run or not.”