The state Bond Commission Friday approved $1.4 billion for various transportation projects in hopes of leveraging twice that amount in federal transportation aid.
The commission also approved $25 million for new voting tabulators, which Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas hopes will be in place in time for next year’s presidential election.
The $1.1 billion in Special Transportation obligation bonds would fund a range of infrastructure projects, including road repair, bridge maintenance and environmental upgrades.
Gov. Ned Lamont said the bonding are matching grants that help the state qualify for another $2.5 billion in federal funding for the projects. The federal funding is part of the $550 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved 2019.
DOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto said Connecticut stands to receive a total of $5.4 billion in aid over the five-year life of the bill.
“We have to prove to the federal government, if we’re going to use federal funds to match a project, we have to show that we have the fiscal ability to do that,” he said about the need for the bonding.
Eucalitto said after the commission meeting that some states aren’t able to meet the requirement, freeing up more funding for other states.
Connecticut received an additional $50 million in August 2022 because other states didn’t have eligible projects that were “shovel ready,” and another $103 million this past August, Eucalitto said. On top of that, he said the state has received another $368 million through competitive grants.
The special obligation bonds are repaid by revenues from the gas tax, vehicle registrations and other transportation-related sources.
The Bond Commission also authorized $540.8 million in general obligation bonds, which are repaid through the budget.
Those allocations included $25 million for new voting tabulators and related software to replace the current machines, which are 17 years old.
Thomas estimated the state will be able to purchase 3,000 machines and necessary software, although the final number could vary. Her office is still working on a request for proposals to solicit offers from the six companies authorized to sell the voting machines.
Thomas said she hopes the tabulators, which will go directly to municipalities, will arrive in time for the 2024 presidential election, but told the commission the process could take until 2025.
The tabulators will not arrive in time for the presidential primaries, which the legislature recently approved moving up to April 2.
The machines also allow for ranked-choice voting, a process that lets voters list candidates in order of preference. Some states use the system for an instant run-off when no candidate gets a majority of votes.
Thomas said her office will likely be busy running next year’s elections — the state will also allow for early voting in 2024 — and major changes, including ranked-choice voting, would be up to lawmakers.
“I am focused on the tabulator procurement and the rollout of early voting,” she said.
Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, a ranking member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and a member of the Bond Commission, called ranked-choice voting an “interesting concept” but said it could lead to unintended results.
Ranked choice voting processes can vary based on the way voters are allowed to rank candidates and the weight states put on the rankings. Proponents of ranked-choice voting have said it can improve the chances of third-party candidates and challengers to win elections.
“Ranked choice voting has proven to increase participation and enthusiasm in elections by providing more choice, particularly in precincts with higher poverty rates and among voters of color,” CT Voter’s First Chair Scott Muller said.
Cheeseman said it could also allow unpopular candidates to win.
“If you looked at that on a presidential side, you are going to have one, two, three, four, five, six candidates in ranked choice voting,” she said. “Do you want a scenario where candidate number five becomes president of the United States?”
Other notable allocations approved Friday include $25 million to help homeowners with crumbling foundations, $25 million to replenish the Time to Own program that assists first time homebuyers and $101 million to fund grants under the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Community Investment Fund.