Inaction gripping the hearts and minds of Hartford legislators has resulted in the spending two-step. Step one, allow for longevity bonuses to be paid out to state employees. Step two, put off any bond offerings because those financial returns of state bonds have been so exemplary.
But the tax-writing finance committee moved to push that further to make $412.7 million in bond de-authorizations Monday, including 255 individual cancelations and reductions.
“We have not added any new authorizations,” said Sen. Donald DeFronzo, a New Britain Democrat who co-chairs the bonding subcommittee of the finance committee. ”We do not include any authorizations for the UConn medical school.”
Rep. Carlo Leone, a Stamford Democrat who co-chairs the subcommittee with DeFronzo, said lawmakers are responding because of concerns about a “negative outlook” and potential bond downgrade from the Wall Street bond-rating agencies.
“We all recognize that we’re in a tough fiscal environment,” said Rep. Cameron Staples, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the finance committee.
With bipartisan support, the bond de-authorization bill was moved to the “consent” calendar for non-controversial items.
Lawmakers also discussed the selling of bonds to refurbish the service plazas along Interstate 95 under an agreement that was reached with the state in November 2009. Under the old contract, the state got 11 cents per gallon from gasoline sales, and now the state is getting one cent, officials said.
What was that last line again? The state is getting less money in the fab deal struck by Governor Rell in selling off, er leasing our service plazas? I’m not the only one asking that question.
State Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said he is concerned with several aspects of the agreement. McDonald noted, for example, that Connecticut has given up a signficant cut of rest area profits.
“It’s a bad deal. There’s no doubt about it,” said McDonald, who is a member of both the Finance and Transportation committees.
But Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, although in favor of a joint hearing on the contract, said “it seems to me we’re getting a very good deal indeed.”
Boucher, who also sits on the Finance and Transportation committees, argued that is because besides providing food and gas, the partners are also going to be investing $178 million to overhaul the rest stops – an expense that might otherwise have to be footed by a cash-strapped state government.
“We are lucky to have a private investor that will shoulder the cost of this during a difficult time and it will create jobs,” Boucher said. “We should characterize this as a postive, fortuitous opportunity for the state of Connecticut.”
State Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee and is a member of the Finance Committee, said he is awaiting a thorough review of the contract being conducted by the state’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
“It’s a very complicated, involved analysis,” DeFronzo said. “But the idea of a hearing is good.”
A hearing might be a good idea before raising some more fees:
Lawmakers also debated over municipal fee increases on a bill that divided chiefly along partisan lines – with Democrats supporting the fee increases and Republicans against. The bill would increase certain notary fees, town clerk fees, marriage licenses, burial and cremation permits, and dog and kennel license fees.