Sen. McLachlan Questions Democrats Cancellation of School Construction Projects

September 3, 2009

State Senator Michael McLachlan (R-24) today called into question majority Democrats’ decision to place a 1-year moratorium on school construction projects that have already been approved by the state. The FY10-11 budget that was passed by the legislature early Tuesday morning contained $7.8 million in savings taken directly from important school construction projects. While majority Democrats would not make cuts to special projects and insisted they had cut every dollar possible, Governor Rell managed to find $8 million in pork barrel spending which she has vetoed.

“The Democrats couldn’t meet the Governor half-way and come up with some real cuts in spending,” said Sen. McLachlan. “Instead they decided to put a stop to important projects that are vital to many of our local school districts. In Danbury, we now have an empty building on our hands that was supposed to be up and running as a Head Start facility by next year. Unfortunately, kids from low-income families will now have to wait at least two years before they are able to enter a nationally recognized and overwhelming successful school readiness program. On the surface, a 1-year moratorium on school construction seems like a sensible place to find savings, but in reality, it brings to light the majority party’s skewed priorities. It shows that they are willing to trade the best interest of our kids for their special interests.”

“On top of the postponement of the Head Start project, Danbury’s newly completed Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School has been told their project funding will have to wait. Unfortunately, the work has already been done. Are they now going to have to go without their promised state reimbursement for at least the next year? Instead of cutting back on pet projects, the Democrats made a choice to cut something as critical as school construction,” said Sen. McLachlan.

Rep. Janice Giegler (R-138) added, “The fact that the Democrats found plenty of money to preserve pet projects and programs that provide aid to very few people, yet cancelled school construction funding that serves scores of Connecticut children, is unconscionable. It shows just how misplaced their priorities were in crafting a budget this year. First, they decided to sacrifice jobs in favor of a tax increase. Now, they’ve cut funding for school construction in favor of marinating gross levels of unproductive spending on state employees and unproductive programs. Had the Democrats joined House and Senate Republicans in making real cuts to government largesse, worthy programs like schools construction could be preserved now and in the future.”

According to a November 2008 memo (attached) from the Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA), placing a moratorium on school construction grants from July 1st, 2009 to June 30th, 2010 would decrease the cost of debt service by $7.8 million. The savings are also listed as a line-item on a spreadsheet Democrats released to their members prior to the budget vote (attached). The moratorium means that towns cannot expect any state matching funds for school construction projects scheduled to take place through June 30th 2010. The projects set to receive matching funds were listed in SB 1111: An Act Concerning Authorization of State Grant Commitments for School Building Projects and Concerning Changes to the Statutes Concerning School Building Projects (attached) which allocates hundreds of millions of dollars in school construction projects. SB 1111 was never called for a vote in the 2009 session.