Bond Commission Approves Nearly $267 Million in Borrowing for Capital Projects – Frantz “Severely Disappointed” [Hartford Courant]

November 20, 2014

Hartford Courant

The State Bonding Commission on Wednesday swiftly and unanimously approved borrowing nearly $267 million to fund dozens of new capital projects.

There was no dissent over the merits of the proposals, which include repurposing a building for a musical theater in Norwalk, renovating several state prisons, boosting aid to low-performing school districts, paying for local road and bridge repairs, providing grants for medical research and a host of other initiatives.

But despite voting yes on the projects, several Republican lawmakers criticized Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who sets the commission’s agenda, for exceeding a voluntary cap on borrowing that he established in 2013.

Sen. Scott Frantz, a Greenwich Republican who serves on the commission, said he is “severely disappointed.”

“This is something that I was afraid of and I think every taxpayer and every citizen in the state of Connecticut should be afraid of…especially given our cash flow situation,” Frantz said.

The borrowing approved Wednesday pushes the state $167 million over the $1.8 billion annual cap set by the governor.

“I will acknowledge that this does reflect an increase in overall projected spending in the current fiscal year above the soft cap of $1.8 billion,” Malloy said at the start of the bond commission meeting.

But, the governor added: “I did take a number of issues into consideration, not the least of which is the very favorable interest rate that we can finance debt at, which is lower than we anticipated at the beginning of the year.

“Therefore,” Malloy added, “I have taken the step of including additional funding opportunities for important projects that I believe should move forward and allow us potentially to capture the lowest possible interest rates available in the marketplace.”

Republicans were unconvinced. State Rep. Vincent Candelora of North Branford, a deputy leader in the House GOP caucus and another member of the commission, compared the governor’s logic to that of a bargain shopper looking to convince themself of a good deal.

“To say that we are saving on debt service and we are seeing better interest rates, it’s like going out and purchasing a suit for $1,000 [and] saving $500,” Candelora said. “But you still have $500 that you owe to pay for that suit. I’m concerned that as we face this next crisis, which I think has been deemed potentially a permanent fiscal crisis, that we are losing all the tools in our tool chest to address the issue.”

Frantz said his concerns over borrowing have nothing to do with the worthiness of the proposals, all of which he voted to support.

“It’s great to have these projects,” he said. “It’s wonderful to have the economic development benefits from them. But…if you borrow money, you still have to pay it back regardless of what the interest rate is.”