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OPINION: New Connecticut governor puts state on debt diet

OPINION: New Connecticut governor puts state on debt diet

I have no idea how our new governor — mild-mannered Ned Lamont, who replaces the prickly Dan Malloy — is going to work out.

It’s too early to tell. He hasn’t even presented his first budget yet.

But I’m already relieved that he’s planning to put the state on a “debt diet.” “I’m going to have to say ‘no’ an awful lot,” Lamont told a group of business leaders and legislators recently. Good.

Which is not to say that I necessarily blame Mr. Malloy for all those years of gloom and doom and red ink during his administration, while Connecticut was so busy failing to recover from the worldwide economic calamity of 2008.

But it is to say that during his term Mr. Malloy was wont to take out the state’s credit card at the drop of a hat; he never seemed to find a bonding opportunity that he didn’t like, and, as the head of the state Bond Commission, he was in a position to approve a ton of borrowing.

A year ago, with the state looking at the current budget’s $240 million-plus in red ink, we were desperate enough to add Keno to the state’s menu of gambling opportunities(“A chance to win every 4 minutes!”) while also moving ahead on a third casino, with Mr. Malloy talking about bringing back highway tolls, jacking up the gasoline tax and slapping a $3 levy on tires.

What better time, Mr. Malloy figured (at the Feb. 16, 2018 meeting of the Bond Commission) to borrow $10 million to renovate Dillon Stadium in Hartford; and $5 million to rehab a downtown Hartford parking garage; and $460 million for various transportation projects; and $2.9 million for other projects of the Capital Region Development Authority; and $35.5 million for a forgivable loan to one of the world’s largest hedge fund managers; and $14 million for a company in Wilton to expand; and $4 million for a company in Plainfield to expand; and $2.5 million for a company to expand in Berlin and New Britain and add 62 jobs (that comes to $40,323 per job); and $2 million for another outfit to expand; and $1 million to help a business relocate and add 20 jobs (that’s $50,000 per job); and $1 million to help New Opportunities Inc. establish a fish farm and hydroponic vegetable farm that would provide 18 jobs to ex-convicts (at $55,555 per job); and $1 million for a financial company to relocate from Simsbury to Hartford; and $525,000 for the town of Waterford to make improvements in the Thames River to enhance submarine operations (which you might think would be the Navy’s job); and, finally, $350,000 to help homeowners with crumbling foundations.

Mr. Lamont proposes to cut general obligation bonding by more than a third, from a yearly average in recent years of about $1.6 billion.

“There will be some screaming,” he told The Connecticut Mirror, since so much school construction and renovation is financed by such bonding, but “we don’t have a choice.”

But if the kind of “pork barrel” spending spelled out above can be stopped, or at least severely restricted, there should still be room left for necessary school projects.

As the governor said, we really don’t have a choice.

Reach Glenn Richter at