christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Gov. Ned Lamont (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont told the heads of two municipal lobbying groups Tuesday that $625 million in bonding would be approved by the General Assembly by March 6.

Immediately following legislative approval, Lamont said he would convene a Bond Commission meeting to release the Town Aid Road, Local Capital Improvement Program, and municipal grants.

“Our cities and towns, we all agree, have waited long enough for their municipal aid capital funding and we need new authorizations to move forward immediately,” Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw wrote to legislative leaders Friday.

Elizabeth Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, said Tuesday that it’s great news because it means towns can move forward with critical road and infrastructure projects before the spring construction season.

North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda, who is president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and attended the meeting Tuesday with Lamont, said for his town it means they can replenish their reserves and maybe lower their bond rating.

Freda said his town took money from its reserves to complete the critical public safety projects while it waited on the state to approve a bond package.

Lamont had been withholding approval of a bond package until lawmakers agreed to vote on his 10-year, $19.1 billion transportation plan, but last week he pulled the plug on the proposal when the Senate asked for five more days to vote.

“It is critical for the state to provide essential bonding for municipalities and to continue our commitment to cities and towns,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said.

Republicans also applauded the decision to vote on a municipal bond package, but were critical the funding was delayed over a transportation plan they did not support.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said it’s as if Lamont held every city and town hostage for eight months and then looks to claim credit for saving the hostages.

” This is a matter of trust yet again. Not only do the citizens not trust this leadership, but towns and cities don’t now ,” Klarides said. “This is a failure of leadership plain and simple.”

The funding is coming at a crucial time in the municipal budget cycle.

“Municipalities have only four months left to their budgets,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said. “They were promised state funding, they budgeted for those funds, they are still waiting and time is running out. Everyone agrees on the municipal aid. There’s no reason towns and cities should have to wait any longer.”

While it’s clear there’s bipartisan support for a municipal bond package it’s unclear if there’s enough support for a broader bond package.

“While I find it very hard to believe that Gov. Lamont and Democrat leaders are anywhere close to agreeing on a full bonding package, what I do know is that funding for towns and cities has been held hostage for far too long and needs to be released,” Fasano said.

Lamont has told legislative leaders that if they vote on a broader bond package at least $200 million in general obligation bonds will now have to go toward transportation. It’s unclear what projects would get delayed or postponed as a result of those negotiations.

There’s currently no indication from Democratic legislative leaders as to how soon they could negotiate a broader $1.7 billion bond package.

Click here for a copy of the municipal bonding package.