HARTFORD, CT — The bond package the General Assembly approved Wednesday is more than what Gov. Ned Lamont supported when he took office back in February 2019, but at the end of the day it won bipartisan support.
When Lamont announced his so-called “debt diet” he didn’t want to bond more than $1.3 billion this year, but the package approved Wednesday by the General Assembly authorizes the state to put $1.9 billion on the state credit card
“That’s $600 million more in authorizations than he promised,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said.
Fasano said Lamont’s authorization exceeds that of former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, except for one year.
“He has broken a promise,” Fasano said.
Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, said net new bond authorizations are down 11% and special tax obligation authorizations are down an average of 19% when compared to the prior administration.
Reiss said the governor controls the state Bond Commission agenda and has “allocated about half of what the prior administration averaged while simultaneously making the necessary and needed investments we were able to under existing authorizations.”
Fasano admitted that Lamont could allocate far less than the legislature authorized.
“This is not a time for baseless allegations and finger-pointing, but it is time for effective governance of this great state and its finances, which will always be measured and balanced with making appropriate investments in Connecticut’s future,” Reiss said.
Fasano said Republicans would have defended Lamont if he had proposed the package he promised to Wall Street and Washington. But he has “enabled and acquiesced to this bonding,” Fasano added.
“This governor needs to stand up for the promises he’s made to this state and this legislature,” Fasano said.
Lamont borrowed about $1.25 billion during his first year in office.
But he had to change his bonding priorities after the General Assembly refused to approve a 10-year, $19.1 billion transportation package that included truck-only tolls.
The bond package approved Wednesday authorizes up to $777.6 million in 2020 and $782.4 million in 2021 for special tax obligation bonds for transportation projects. That’s in addition to $1.55 billion in general obligation bonds in 2020 and $1.52 billion in 2021.
Rep. Chris Davis, R-Ellington, a member of the state Bond Commission, said he hopes that Lamont doesn’t seek to allocate all the money the legislature is authorizing as part of the package.
“There are a number of positive things included in this bond package,” Davis said. “The municipal aid is in there that our towns are relying upon.”
There’s $25 million a year for nonprofit providers, $5 million for a state plan to deal with the coronavirus, $475 million for school construction projects, and hundreds of millions of dollars for state colleges and universities. The bill also gives cities and towns the money they need to improve local roads and infrastructure.
“The bond package includes funding for programs such as Town Aid Road and the Local Capital Improvement Program (LoCIP), which towns rely upon to maintain roads and bridges, and repair critical infrastructure,” Elizabeth Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, said. “Towns are responsible for maintaining more than 17,000 miles of road, four times as many miles as the state. Well-maintained roads are critical to the safety of residents and the economic vitality of our communities.”
The package passed the House 126-20. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, changed her mind and voted in favor of the package because she felt on balance that it did more good.
“The underlying bill was not a horrible bill,” Klarides said.
The Senate passed the bill 31-5.