Malloy pursuing federal dollars during DC visit

WASHINGTON–Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made an in-person pitch to top White House officials Friday for federal help with two major state projects: a $1 billion high-speed rail line and the planned expansion of the UConn Health Center’s John Dempsey Hospital.

On the high-speed rail line, which would run from New Haven through Hartford to Springfield, Malloy said he’s been lobbying federal Department of Transportation officials for Connecticut get some of the federal money that Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected for its planned rail project.

“I’ll take anything, [but] I’d like to get at least $100 million,” Malloy told reporters after a White House meeting Friday.

He noted that he’s scheduled to be on CNN’s “State of the Union” this Sunday opposite Scott. “It would really make my day if they would award us the money before that,” Malloy said.

Not likely. Even as Malloy was touting Connecticut’s prospects, Scott was having second thoughts. The Florida Republican paid his own visit to top DOT officials–namely Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“This morning I met with Governor Rick Scott to discuss the high speed rail project,” LaHood said in a statement Friday, adding that Scott asked for more details about the project.

“I have decided to give Governor Scott additional time to review the agreement crafted by local officials from Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Miami,” LaHood said. “He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile.”

Even if Scott still decides to forgo those federal dollars, Malloy conceded that Connecticut’s isn’t the only state waiting in the wings.

“There are a number of other states and governors who are going after that,” he said. Malloy added that he and the governors of Massachusetts and Vermont were all hoping the money would be spent on a line that proponents hope will eventually run from Massachusetts to Montreal.

Malloy said his other focus in Washington, where he’s attending meetings of both the Democratic Governors Association and the National Governors Association, is reviving the prospect of federal funding for the UConn hospital proposal.

In December, state officials were crushed to learn that Connecticut wouldn’t get a much-anticipated $100 million federal grant for the project; that money was awarded to Ohio State University. Malloy said he’s meeting with a top Health and Human Services official tomorrow to craft a Plan B.

“The rebuild of the Dempsey Center is an immediate issue that I’d love to see us make progress on,” Malloy said. “So we are working to put together a proposal with HHS to access money that could be spent in support of the medical school and the dental school. Are we going to get $100 million? No. Is there a good chance we could get millions of dollars? The answer is yes, and I’m pursing that.”

Asked about his decision to be such an active participant in the governors’ associations, Malloy said it was well worth it. He noted that not only does he build relationships with his fellow governors, but he cultivates contacts in Washington.

“You get knowledge, you get access, and hopefully you get money in the long run,” Malloy said. “How can I be in a competition for transportation dollars and not be attending the briefings and the reach-outs with the Secretary of Transportation?”

In case that wasn’t clear enough, he added: “I will not hide the fact that I intend to be a player in Washington in these very difficult times.”