Fiscally speaking things haven’t changed enough over the past five months to get Rep. Vincent Candelora of North Branford to vote in favor of any of the items on Friday’s Bond Commission agenda.
“Nothing has changed since August,” Candelora said Thursday. “We’re just going to start borrowing from the bond funds to operate government.”
He argued the state should not be putting operating expenses on the state credit card, which is a general statement about how state Treasurer Denise Nappier is managing the state’s cash flow and not necessarily a statement about any particular item on Friday’s agenda.
Candelora is still bitter about the last Bond Commission meeting in August where $581 million in short-term bond anticipation notes were rolled over into $520 million in long-term general obligation bonds. Gov. M. Jodi Rell gave Nappier the authority to use short-term bonds or BANs back in 2009 when revenues were lagging.
They were used as a stop gap measure to pay for some operating expenses in anticipation of bond authorizations when less tax revenue was coming into the state’s cash pool.
While it’s likely Candelora will be the only member of the 10-member commission to vote against every item Friday’s agenda, at least one other item on Rell’s last Bond Commission agenda is giving others pause.
The $81 million Rell requested to purchase 38 M-8 rail cars for the New Haven and Shore Line East rail lines continues to concern some lawmakers.
The item was postponed from the August meeting after Sen. Eileen Daily of Westbrook raised concerns about the timing of the purchase. Daily was on her way back from an out-of-state conference and unable to be reached for comment Thursday evening, but her Finance Committee co-chairman said he has similar concerns.
“In general I’m concerned about the limitations it puts on Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s administration,” Rep. Cam Staples of New Haven said Thursday.
But unlike Candelora, Staples wasn’t willing to say he will vote against the item Friday morning.
Staples said he’s keeping an open mind about the rail cars until he hears from Department of Transportation officials. He said it’s possible the state may lose out on the contracted price if it doesn’t purchase them before the end of the year, which may be a good argument to pull the trigger on the purchase.
But he’s also concerned with the amount of debt service the state is taking on and how it may tie the hands of the incoming Malloy administration.
“It may not be necessary and it may put stress on our debt service,” Staples, the outgoing co-chairman of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, said Thursday.
Asked if he thought Rell was trying to complete the purchase of the rail cars so she can include it as part of her legacy as she exits state service, Staples said he’s withholding judgment until tomorrow’s meeting.
In a press release sent out earlier this week, Rell said the $81 million purchase “will complete the rail car enhancement program that I initiated shortly after taking office.”
Some 342 rail cars have already been ordered, and the purchase of 38 will bring the total to the originally planned 380. Of the remaining 38, 24 will be deployed on Shore Line East – the commuter service between New Haven and New London. The other 14 will go into service on the New Haven Line, which runs between New Haven and Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
The $81 million purchase of the rail cars is the single largest item on Friday’s agenda.