What Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell thought would be her last Bond Commission meeting didn’t go as planned, so she picked up the pieces and tried again Wednesday to borrow about $20 million for a number of capital improvements in cities and towns across the state.
The two Republican lawmakers on the 10-member Bond Commission didn’t make it easy for her, either. Rep. Vincent Candelora of North Branford voted against all nine agenda items and Sen. Andrew Roraback of Goshen voted against seven of the nine items.
Candelora voted against all the items because he doesn’t believe the state should be borrowing to cover operating expenses, a position he has held since at least as far back as August.
“When Vinny says we’re broke he’s sugarcoating it,” Roraback said. “The circumstances have to be pretty dire for a legislator to vote against projects which benefit his own district.”
Roraback voted against two projects which benefit his own district. He said they’re worthy projects and when the state recovers he’ll be happy to support borrowing for them.
“We are doing a disservice to everyone in Connecticut by pretending we can afford to light playing fields and build playgrounds when we are at the edge of a precipice from which the fall is going to be very long and very hard,” Roraback said.
Deputy State Treasurer Howard Rifkin, who sat in Tuesday for Denise Nappier, said that right now the state’s cash situation is okay. He said recently the state hasn’t had to do any intra-fund borrowing, but in general he would rather borrow against bond funds than go out into the market because it’s a more efficient way of using cash.
Last week, Rell scrapped any hope that she would be able to get the requisite six votes in order to complete the M-8 rail car purchase after the measure failed during the Dec. 10 meeting. The rest of the items, including $250,000 for a playground in Brookfield, her hometown, passed.
“I will say that we have canceled more Bond Commission meetings than we’ve actually held,” Rell said of the Republican opposition. “We’re under my cap that we had self-imposed.”
She said all the items on the commission’s agenda were commitments that had been made in towns that have been looking forward to the funds. “I made those commitments and I’m going to honor them,” Rell said.
The Bond Commission approved a number of projects Wednesday including $2 million for the repair of damaged homes in the Beverly Hills section of Westville in New Haven. Houses there have been slowly sinking for years. The problem has cracked foundations, separated porches from houses, and caused flooding.
“I’m very happy for the homeowners who were affected by the damages that were inflicted on their homes and the funds that we approved today will go a long way to making them whole, so I think that’s critically important,” Rep. Cam Staples of New Haven said Wednesday.
The Bond Commission also approved $950,000 in funding for the Downtown Crossing Project in New Haven. Staples, a member of the Bond Commission, said that project “is extremely important to New Haven’s economic development and growth.“
“This modest state investment is coupled with a considerable amount of federal investment and some private investment so I think it will really increase the viability of the bio-tech industry and the medical-related industry down there,” Staples said. “So I think it’s a very helpful state investment that’s going to spur 10-20 times that [amount] in continued development.”
The commission also approved $192,000 to clean a contaminated pond in Wolcott, $270,000 for a new roof at the Eugene O’Neill Theater in Waterford, $900,000 for a new senior center in East Hartford, $250,000 for grease traps at two schools in Norwich, $1 million to renovate the Boys and Girls Club in New Britain, $1 million to Connecticut Public Broadcasting to renovate its Hartford studios, $75,000 for restoration of a town building on Thimble Islands Road in Branford, and several other projects.
State Comptroller and Lt. Gov.-elect Nancy Wyman and Attorney General Blumenthal, who skipped the Dec. 10 meeting claiming they didn’t want to obligate the new administration to any future debt payments, also skipped Wednesday’s meeting.
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.