Lamont cancels bonding meeting, highlighting rift on capital spending
Gov. Ned Lamont is back in Connecticut ramping up the week’s work, which will not include the regularly scheduled August meeting of the State Bond Commission.
Friday’s meeting is now canceled, highlighting the ongoing rift between Lamont and fellow Democrats in the General Assembly, They have long chafed at his so-called debt diet, in which Lamont — who controls the bond commission agenda — says he wants to allocate less than two-thirds the borrowing for capital projects that the state did under former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The Democrats want more borrowing, though they’re willing to see less than in recent years. Republicans may want even less, with the balance dedicated to transportation projects instead of highway tolls, which Lamont wants.
The fight matters because bonding money — a cap of $1.9 billion a year for general projects, plus transportation spending in the range of $700 million a year — is the state’s way of investing in itself, the way a household would borrow money to buy a car, launch a small business or expand a house.
Friday’s meeting would have been the first of the fiscal year, which started July 1. So far, Lamont has convened just two meetings of the commission, in April and June, allocating a total of about $400 million for general projects and $550 million for transportation.
“It’s just kind of hard to get everybody’s schedules in line so you have a quorum,” said Chris McClure, spokesman for the state Office of Policy and Management, Lamont’s budget agency.
McClure said it’s true that part of the reason for the cancellation is the debt diet, especially since there are no items coming up that must be approved right away to meet deadlines.
In a story about the rift over bonding earlier this month, The CT Mirror reported that Lamont is “sending lawmakers a clear message” that with no plan to upgrade Connecticut’s infrastructure, bond allocations will be on hold.
McClure said Monday that talks are underway. In addition to the absence of a plan to pay for road and bridge repairs, the General Assembly and Lamont have yet to agree on a legislative bond authorization package — the list of approved items that the bond commission would then accept or reject over the following months, and even years.
McClure said it’s possible Lamont will call for a special meeting in early or mid-September, as has happened often in recent year when regular meetings don;t fit schedules.
The 10-member body, with the governor as chairman, includes the secretary of policy and management; the state Treasurer; the state Comptroller; the state Attorney General; the commissioner of administrative services; and the four top members of the General Assembly’s finance, revenue and bonding committee — two from each party.