Lawmakers work to finish budget-related bills [AP]

May 9, 2014

By SUSAN HAIGH | Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut lawmakers were tying up loose ends Tuesday on a new state budget, with the General Assembly passing a $953 million bonding package that includes millions of dollars for pre-kindergarten classrooms, drinking water projects and preservation of a 1,000-acre forest.

The bonds bill also includes $22 million to bolster school security in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, $25 million for a loan fund to help residents prone to coastal flooding elevate their homes and flood-proof their businesses, and $50 million to provide grants for drinking water projects across the state.

“It touches on so many parts of, not just government, but improving the quality of life here in the state of Connecticut,” said Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford and co-chair of the subcommittee that helped craft the package.

The bill passed the Senate on a 30-6 vote. Shortly afterward, the House of Representatives approved it on a vote 136-8. Both chambers also passed a school construction funding bill. Lawmakers face a midnight adjournment on Wednesday.

Last week, the General Assembly passed a revised $19 billion budget agreement reached between the majority Democrats and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Many details of the budget, as well as some bills that require spending, such as a proposal to study a new state-run retirement account for low-income workers, will be included in that massive bill.

The budget bill was still being negotiated late Tuesday night, and it was unclear when it would come up for a vote.

The bonding bill includes funding for some of Malloy’s initiatives. For example, he announced in April plans for the state to play a role in purchasing and protecting the land in Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook known as “The Preserve.”

“The permanent protection of The Preserve has been a goal of the land conservation community across our state for more than 15 years and it’s time to act to achieve this important goal,” the Democrat said at the time.

The property is considered to be the last, large unprotected coastal forest between New York and Boston.

Under an agreement announced last month, the state would contribute $3.3 million toward the purchase and management of the project. The figure includes $1.4 million from federal funds for the open space acquisition and the $1.9 million included in the bonding bill for management of the property. Old Saybrook is expected to provide $3 million toward the project, while the Trust for Public Land is expected to deliver $2 million to $3 million in private funding.

Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, said “there isn’t one bad project” in the bond package. But he expressed concern about the state’s level of borrowing.

“We have to continue to have a fiscal conscience or else we’re going to shoulder the next generation with way too much debt,” he said.