The state Bond Commission is expected to borrow $267 million in general obligation bonds Wednesday during its first meeting since July. The amount will exceed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s voluntary bonding cap by about $167 million.
The governor, who controls the Bond Commission’s agenda, has set a “soft” annual borrowing limit of $1.8 billion for the last two years. Although he stayed under the soft cap in 2013, he is poised to exceed it after Wednesday’s agenda, which puts state borrowing at about $1.97 billion for 2014.
“Governor Malloy has prioritized projects that were long overdue because they improve our quality of life and create jobs. The agenda reflects both the readiness of current projects and the importance of making these investments in infrastructure, public education and job creation right now,” Malloy’s spokesman Andrew Doba said in a statement Tuesday.
However, Republicans say Malloy should adhere to his self-imposed bonding limit. Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said exceeding it will not help the state’s standing with rating agencies.
Candelora said the rating agencies also will be concerned by a growing number of projects that have been approved by the bond commission, but not yet funded. He said there are more than $6 billion in Bond Commission-approved projects waiting for funding.
“That’s a historic high level, and as we continue to approve these projects and not fund them, it’s going to create a cash crunch for the state in the future,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why some self-imposed restraint is important . . . At some point the state of Connecticut is going to have to pay that bill and that’s a hefty bill to pay.”
Wednesday’s agenda includes $25 million in borrowing for Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public venture capital fund. CI makes grants and loans designed to encourage growth in the state’s tech field. But it had essentially run out of funds, according to blogger Kevin Rennie’s website, www.DailyRuctions.com.
The commission also will vote on items to support the state’s economic development programs. The Department of Economic and Community Development is expected to receive $5 million to replenish its Small Business Express Program, which makes loans and grants to small businesses.
The panel is expected to borrow $19 million for the department’s Manufacturing Assistance Act program. The largest of these projects will provide Electric Boat with $10 million to help fund an expansion of its facility in Groton. The project assumes the company will create 200 jobs and retain 8,700 jobs under the agreement.
The Bond Commission also is expected to borrow $5 million to expand the state’s technical high school program with new equipment, facility improvements, and technology upgrades.
“Expanding the technical high schools’ manufacturing programs is a smart investment that will provide state-of-the-art training for students and provide Connecticut employers with highly skilled workers,” Malloy said in a press release.
The commission also will vote on $22 million to reimburse more than 400 public and private Connecticut schools for security upgrades.
Elsewhere on the agenda, the commission is expected to approve $5.9 million to help school districts pay for improvements to low-performing schools. The town of Newtown will receive $5 million to plan and design a new Sandy Hook Elementary School. The commission will borrow $5 million to support a parking project in the city of Milford.
Meanwhile, the Capital Region Development Authority is expected to receive $2.9 million to fund renovations at the Connecticut Convention Center and Rentschler Field. The Bond Commission is expected to borrow another $5 million to remove asbestos and other hazardous materials from state-owned buildings.
The commission also is expected to approve $11.9 million to fund various housing projects in several towns. A separate item will send $4.6 million to the Capital Region Development Authority to fund housing projects in Hartford. The commission is expected to borrow $12.5 million to help various municipalities pay for local bridge repairs.
The commission also plans to approve $53.6 million for repairs to the 118-year-old Walk Bridge in Norwalk. The total cost of repairing the swing bridge on the Metro-North rail line is about $465 million. The federal government has given the state about $161 million already for the repairs.