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June 3, 2016

$1B in bonding canceled

The House voted unanimously Thursday to cancel or reduce $1 billion in bonding that would affect schools, infrastructure, and development projects across Connecticut.

At the high end, East Hartford will lose $6.5 million, which is all the funding that was slated for road and infrastructure work and improvements associated with Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.

The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks won’t receive $515,000 for work on a swing space storage building and education building construction. Also in Windsor Locks, $750,000 was canceled to construct a readiness center for the Connecticut National Guard civil support team.

Manchester saw all of the funding cut for the development and construction of the Manchester to Bolton section of the East Coast Greenway — $500,000 — as well as $1 million for the Broad Street streetscape project, cutting funding in half.

Manchester Community College also will be affected: $672,000 in bonds for building code work in the Lowe building and about $214,000 for other campus projects.

Redevelopment for Stafford’s downtown saw all of its nearly $440,000 cut.

In addition, the entire amount earmarked for the Small Town Economic Assistance Program, or STEAP, was gutted — a savings to the state of $20 million.

“The reductions in this bill were not easy, but we were able to preserve many of the projects that we thought were important,” Rep. Betty Boukus, D-Plainville, said. “We continue to make critical investments in our state.”

Rep. Christopher Davis, R-Ellington, said the reduced bond package is “in the best interests of the state of Connecticut.” But he did raise an amendment that would have required the recently approved $22 million for Bridgewater Associates to face more scrutiny.

His proposal would have forced Bridgewater — the world’s largest hedge fund — to go before the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee for approval of the economic development funds before they could be dispersed.

Republicans argued that the amendment would have provided more transparency and ensured the transaction was properly vetted, as well as determining “it is in fact truly in the best interest of the state of Connecticut,” Davis said.

Davis, who voted against the allocation during the State Bond Commission meeting last week, said the deal was “done without any kind of public input or knowledge” and “the general public had no knowledge that we were moving in that direction.”

His amendment failed 84-53.

In addition, the bill defers from next year to 2018 some $55 million in bonds for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities’ 2020 program and $26 million for the University of Connecticut.

It also canceled a $25 million authorization for next year’s Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund program, and defers it to fiscal year 2023.

It did, however, authorize $358.6 million in new general obligation bonds for next year for state projects and grant programs, including $181 million for the State Office Building and $60 million for the York Correctional Institution.

It also establishes a Neighborhood Security Fellowship Program, a pilot program that identifies and recruits certain at-risk people to participate in Neighborhood Security projects. These are public construction projects that are awarded only to bidders who employ those who participate in the fellowship program.

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