State Bond Commission approves funds for 25 additional M-8 cars
HARTFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Friday morning disputed a Republican senator's accusation that the uncertainty over whether unions will approve $1.6 billion in givebacks has Connecticut "on the cusp of Armageddon."
The initial comment came during a routine meeting of the bipartisan Bond Commission. Chaired by the governor, the group meets to borrow money, typically for big ticket projects, but also for what some criticize as pet "pork" initiatives in individual municipalities.
On Friday, members unanimously supported spending $60.5 million to purchase 25 new train cars for the Metro-North New Haven Line. Announced by Malloy earlier this month, the order brings the total purchase over the last few years to 405 and ensures, according to transportation officials, the entire fleet will be replaced by 2014.
But Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen took issue with spending $400,000 for an all-abilities playground in Hamden.
"I have to draw the line," Roraback told the group. "There's not a single member of the General Assembly that wouldn't welcome a new playground in their community ... But I think it's fair to say we're on the cusp of Armageddon when citizens see what's in the offing if the concessions package is not agreed to."
State unions in June rejected $1.6 billion in givebacks negotiated with Malloy, resulting in the governor moving ahead with an estimated 6,500 layoffs and other major cuts.
Labor leaders, hoping to halt the job losses, have arranged a new vote scheduled to conclude by Aug. 18. But ratification is still not guaranteed.
Roraback said that under such circumstances, "It's very difficult for me, in good conscience, to support the state investing in a playground. I think it would be appropriate of us to have a moratorium on projects of this nature."
He and Rep. Sean Williams, R-Oakville, also voted against some other agenda items.
Malloy, a Democrat elected in November, countered, "We certainly are not approaching Armageddon."
He said the new budget will be balanced one way or another -- with concessions or through the cuts and layoffs.
"Either way there will not be Armageddon," Malloy said. "And either way, children with disabilities deserve the ability to have recreational opportunities at least on a regional basis."
Afterward, he told reporters many items on the agenda "unlock" matches in federal funding and are major job creators. For example, the commission unanimously approved spending $333.7 million on transportation projects the department estimates will create 13,366 construction-related jobs.
In at least one case the commission approved funds for a constituency -- the state's vocational technical high school system -- that could soon be hit hard in other areas by Malloy's cuts. Members authorized spending more than $4.8 million for new vehicles, equipment and technology at the schools.
But the schools face a 10 percent budget cut should the unions again reject the concessions, which would eliminate adult education, art, music and sports programs.
Staff Writer Brian Lockhart can be reached at email@example.com.