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Lamont Proposes More Borrowing As Toll Vote Approaches

Lamont Proposes More Borrowing As Toll Vote Approaches

CT News Junkie, February 7, 2020

By Christine Stuart

Legislation released Thursday shows Gov. Ned Lamont is adding about $300 million more to the 2020 bond package than he initially contemplated under his self-imposed debt diet.

The Lamont administration had been holding back details of the 2020 bond package as they looked to secure votes for the transportation bill, including truck-only tolling. The legislation detailing the package became available online Thursday.

Typically, the General Assembly would have voted on the 2020 bond package at the end of June last year when they passed the budget. However, Lamont held onto the package and used it in his negotiations over transportation funding, since $100 million of the $1.7 billion in general obligation bonds would go toward transportation.

“He broke a promise to achieve a goal,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Thursday.

Fasano said it’s tough to tie specific lawmakers to specific amounts of money in the bond package since some details are still lacking, but he has no doubts the money was “doled out very politically.”

He pointed to $2 million for the town of East Hartford for almost anything related to economic development or redevelopment. He also pointed to about $25 million in school construction aimed at inner city schools.

There’s another $55 million over the next two years for renovations and improvements at the XL Center in Hartford.

At least $1.4 billion of the borrowing Lamont wants to do is not controversial. It’s for things like municipal aid, affordable housing, information technology improvements, and support for higher education.

There’s up to $95 million for information technology upgrades, including up to $25 million for the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority. There’s also about $22 million over two years for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.

There’s money for water treatment and for remediation of lead in school drinking water, and $40 million over two years for the Judicial Department.

The governor still has the authority to control how much of this borrowing goes out the door, however, because he is the head of the state Bond Commission. The commission allocates the funding. If the General Assembly doesn’t approve truck-only tolls, then Lamont could claw back some of the planned borrowing.

History of bond usage back to top

Chris McClure, a spokesman for the Office of Policy and Management, said Fasano’s accusations about the bond authorizations are “baseless.”

“The simple truth is that Senator Fasano has a history of opposing the use of bond funds in our distressed and urban centers and questions investments in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, but he has no problem seeking and celebrating the use of funds in his district for high school football field improvements or trolley museums,” McClure said. “The Senator Fasano prism of capital projects is based on a simple calloused calculus that projects outside of his district, like remediating toxic brownfields, are not worth the state’s investment, but soliciting a train station in his district is worthwhile.”

Will the General Assembly actually approve Lamont’s truck-only toll proposal?

Fasano said he’s certain lawmakers who needed to be persuaded to vote for a transportation package already knew what was in the bond package.

But will there be a vote?

“It seems like the only two people really pushing this is A to Z and the governor,” Fasano said referring to House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and Lamont.

Calling it the “elephant in the room” Lamont pleaded Wednesday with state lawmakers to call a vote on his “truck toll” plan.

However, following Lamont’s speech to the joint session, Senate President Martin Looney said a vote may be delayed again until at least the week of Feb. 18 after the President’s Day holiday.

But it’s just a matter of scheduling.

“We’re comfortable where we’re at as a group and we’re going to move forward,” Aresimowicz said.