State Republicans push for financial transparency with COVID relief money [Rep-Am]

January 21, 2022

From the Waterbury Republican-American:


Senate Republicans are proposing a series of public reporting requirements to track how local governments and state government are spending federal coronavirus relief and infrastructure funds.

One of the proposals unveiled Thursday during a news conference at the state Capitol would require quarterly reports from towns and cities on how they are spending allocations from the state’s municipal COVID-19 relief fund.

Senate Republicans also proposed to require the state Department of Transportation and other state agencies provide quarterly reports to five legislative committees detailing how federal infrastructure funds are being spent and future spending plans.

The quarterly reports on coronavirus and infrastructure funding would be made public.

The GOP caucus additionally recommended the legislature establish protections to ensure the state’s $300 million share of a $26 billion multistate opioid settlement are spent on addiction prevention and recovery.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, said Thursday that legislation will be introduced in the upcoming 2022 legislative session that starts on Feb. 9.

Kelly and other Republican senators said there needs to be more accountability and transparency concerning how local governments and the state government are spending billions in federal coronavirus relief and infrastructure funds.

They pointed to the allegations of theft of federal coronavirus relief funding in West Haven involving a former Democratic state lawmaker. They also said questions have been raised whether funds have made it to communities most in need.

“I think most people go about spending state and federal dollars the right way, but the last thing we want to do is to find out that we have pots of money going unspent, and still have all the problems that were already being discussed here,” said Sen. Craig A. Miner, R-Litchfield, the ranking Senate member of the Appropriations Committee.

Senate Republicans cited concerns from the construction industry about the state’s ability to put infrastructure funding to work.

“Connecticut doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to directing funds to their intended purposes, especially when it comes to transportation, and I think you all know what I’m talking about,” said Sen. Henri Martin, D-Bristol, the ranking Senate member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, and a member of the Transportation Committee.

He was referencing past diversions of revenue scheduled to be deposited in the Special Transportation Fund to support other state spending.