HARTFORD, CT — Outgoing Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended the hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowing the state Bond Commission approved Thursday at what will likely be one of the last Bond Commission meetings of the year.
Some of the more controversial items on the agenda included projects like handball courts in Manchester, a splash pad and playground in New Haven, and a grocery store in Hartford.
“Is now the right time to be allocating $8.5 million for a grocery store?” Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, asked.
Malloy said Hartford has been without a grocery store for an entire generation. But the project is about more than a grocery store.
“This is part of an overall development that will increase the tax base of the city of Hartford,” Malloy said.
He said it’s also complementary to the 3,000 units of housing that have been built over the eight years Malloy has been governor.
The grocery store is part of the Hartford Downtown North development, which includes the minor league baseball stadium, housing, and commercial space.
“I question the optics of doing these at this time,” Frantz said of the projects.
When news first broke in 2014 that the owners of the minor league team intended to move 13 miles from New Britain to Hartford, Malloy said there would not be any state money used for the project.
“We were not involved at all,” Malloy said in 2014 when news of the move broke. “Listen, I’m a big believer in supporting communities with appropriate development.”
On Thursday, Malloy said the development around the stadium is something the state supports because it’s the next logical step toward spurring greater economic growth.
“This is not the stadium,” Malloy said. “This is housing, commercial space, retail space, and it’s in keeping with other developments.”
The borrowing the city of Hartford did for the stadium is not part of the bailout the city received, which will require the state to make payments on the city’s debt and help it avoid bankruptcy.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said the state’s investment in the Downtown North project is leveraging private sector investments in these parcels.
“I’m not aware of the state funding grocery stores in any other town,” Rep. Chris Davis, R-East Windsor, said.
Davis, who voted against the items on the Bond Commission agenda Thursday, said there was a grocery store interested in the Hartford location before the stadium came. He said it makes it look like the state is again “bailing out the city of Hartford for its poor decisions.”
Davis said the state is coming very close to the new bond cap, which only allows it to borrow $1.9 billion per year. Davis said the state is currently about $100 million away from the cap this year.
Of course some of that math on calculating the cap will depend on what’s now a legal dispute about whether an inadvertent drafting error in a new bond covenant will reduce the state’s future bonding capacity.
Malloy said that since it could become a legal matter it’s best not to discuss it in public.
On Wednesday, Malloy’s budget office referred the matter to Attorney General George Jepsen, who has promised to take a look.
“My reading of the situation is that it does not affect us and our ability to bond at this moment,” Malloy said.
State Treasurer Denise Nappier, who first alerted legislators and the administration to the legislative drafting error, said Thursday that she would prefer to replace rhetoric with collaboration to find a solution.
“The drafting error in the final hours of the 2018 legislative session appears to have been inadvertent. Moreover, while unfortunate, it may actually have the salutary effect of keeping capital spending under tighter control,” Nappier said.
She said while Jepsen reviews the impact on the June 20 bond covenant, “we suggest that he also review the legislative and judicial options available to rectify this unintentional error.”
Click here to read Wednesday’s exclusive on the issue.
Gov. Malloy post bond commission. CTNewsJunkie.com
Posted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Thursday, September 20, 2018