Among the $85.4 million in general obligation bonds the state Bond Commission borrowed Friday morning was $800,000 for new vote tally board inside the House of Representatives chamber at the Capitol.
Following the Bond Commission meeting, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the spending to replace the notoriously unreliable scoreboards currently in the House chamber was another example of the failures of previous administrations to maintain the state’s infrastructure.
“The boards are not operable, in fact they’ve had a number of breakdowns just this past week. Am I happy about this, am I happy that it comes to me and that this wasn’t done previously? The obvious answer is no,” he said.
The legislature decides what it needs to operate and it voted to authorize the bonding for the new boards, he said.
It is unclear just how old the current boards are. According to Jay Drew of the Office of Legislative Management, parts for them are no longer being manufactured and while they still operate, they are “sort of limping along.”
“This is not just an arbitrary thing. We no longer have the ability to repair it,” he said.
Malloy said the new boards are required to ensure that the public has access to accurate legislative vote tallies. The new technology will give the public greater confidence in the the information, he said.
But Sen. Andrew Roraback, R – Goshen, who is also on the Bond Commission disagreed, saying the new boards are hardly a necessity.
“With all due respect, we can muddle along. That machine is functional, it’s working. The governor suggested that somehow we might not properly record the outcome of votes in the House of Representatives—that to me is a far flung notion,” he said.
Roraback, who served in the House before becoming a state Senator, recalled an occasion where the board broke down and lawmakers simply announced their votes one-by-one. While it wasn’t an ideal situation, he said it worked and the votes were recorded accurately. The U.S. Senate still operates that way, he said.
During the meeting, Roraback asked the commission to table the bonding on the scoreboards and do an investigation to determine what the problems with the boards are and whether there are options for replacing them without spending $800,000.
“Government has this appetite to order a Cadillac when we might be better served to be looking for a Prius. The time for government to be purchasing Cadillacs, in my opinion, has passed and we owe it to ourselves not to be asking for more than we need to meet our essential responsibilities,” he said.
Roraback said it was hard to justify spending that much on the scoreboards when a homeless shelter in his district, Fish if Torrington, will likely be closing. You could purchase a pretty nice house with $800,000, he said.
He and Rep. Sean Williams, R – Watertown, voted to table the motion, an effort that was defeated by the rest of the Democrats on the Bond Commission.
Malloy’s senior communications adviser Roy Occhiogrosso said Roraback, who is running for the Congress in the 5th district, should look more closely at the housing prices in the district he’s running in. With $800,000, someone could buy several houses in New Britain or Waterbury, he said.
“He knows full well that the governor inherited this problem. The same way he’s inherited a lot of other problems and unlike a lot of predecessors, he does what has to be done to fix what’s broken. Is he happy about it? No. But I think Senator Roraback is about to have a bad day,” he said.
Despite concerns about negative outlooks earlier this year as the state was looking to pass a budget, three credit rating agencies have reaffirmed Connecticut’s AA rating, according to a statement from state Treasurer Denise Nappier.