HARTFORD, CT — On one hand, Democrats on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee sought to adhere to Gov. Ned Lamont’s “debt diet,” and moments later they passed legislation that would take away his control of the Bond Commission.
The committee voted 46-4 in favor of Sen. John Fonfara’s proposal to turn control of the state Bond Commission over to the legislature. One Democrat and three Republicans voted against the measure.
“The legislature does all this work. Goes to all these public hearings … and then it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you go to the governor’s office and you have to beg for an item that’s been important to you, an item that’s been vetted by 187 individuals collectively [to] be funded,” Witkos said. “I don’t think that that’s right.”
Fonfara’s proposal to change how the Bond Commission works would put control back in the hands of the legislature.
Under the proposal, the Senate President and House Speaker would be in charge of the Bond Commission, which oversees all the borrowing for infrastructure projects. The leaders from both parties would replace members of the executive branch on the 10-member board, which is currently chaired by Lamont. The Office of Fiscal Analysis would staff the commission, which is currently staffed by the Office of Policy and Management.
Rep. Patricia Miller, D-Stamford, said they negotiate a bond package in good faith with the administration, but then have a “hard time getting our items on the agenda.”
She said the legislators should be more involved in the process of getting their items on the agenda. She said she agrees with the characterization that they do “have to beg” to get their items funded.
She said the previous administration, under former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, “funded what they wanted to fund and it wasn’t necessarily what we wanted to fund.”
“We as legislators know what our communities need,” Miller said.
Fonfara said the role of the bonding subcommittee and all the hard work they put into deciding what the legislature should be authorizing “should not end here.”
“The legislature should play a much greater role in determining, as is the case in most states in this country, determining how we not only authorize but also allocate funding for capital investments,” Fonfara said.
“We can hope and pray and beg, cajole and encourage, but it is up to the administration,” Fonfara said.
Lamont’s administration fought back and reminded the committee the reason for the progress it made saving the state about $46 million in interest costs during the recent bond sale.
“When politics interferes with sound fiscal policy, the people of Connecticut pay the ultimate price,” Maribel La Luz, Lamont’s spokeswoman, said. “As legislative leaders and our office have already stated, Senator Fonfara’s proposal raises serious concerns from the executive and legislative branches on both sides of the aisle. It’s clearly a reaction to the governor’s debt diet which S&P, Fitch, Kroll, and Moody’s ratings agencies have applauded and rewarded the state with an increased outlook. As we previously said, we completely reject this idea and will continue to work with the legislature to develop a responsible honest state budget.”
Miller called the package “bipartisan” and said it only funded projects that the state needed and nothing else. At the same time they didn’t accept all of Lamont’s recommendations since some of them would create problems for their efforts to reduce homelessness through bonding for affordable housing projects.
That bill passed with bipartisan support 35-13.