New year brings another round in partisan battle over CT’s credit card

The new legislative session is less than one week old, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican state legislative leaders have resumed their battle over the health of Connecticut’s credit card.

Sen. L. Scott Frantz of Greenwich, one of two Republicans on the 10-member State Bond Commission, cautioned the Democratic governor Monday when the panel approved $655 million in new borrowing at its first meeting of the year.

Unlike the state budget, which follows a July 1-to-June 30 fiscal year, bonding allocations are tracked over the calendar year.

The commission typically averages about 10 meetings per year, Frantz said. And if the rest of the meetings approve borrowing at similar levels, “that’s a big, big number,” the Greenwich lawmaker told Malloy.

Republicans expressed frustration in 2014 when the governor set his informal cap on bonding at a hefty $1.8 billion – about $400 million higher than the previous year’s – and then again at year’s end when the commission exceeded that cap by $167 million.

The administration traditionally establishes a “soft cap” on bonding, which is the estimate of total annual borrowing that it gives to credit-rating agencies on Wall Street.

With $20.9 billion in bonded debt – about $5,803 per person – Connecticut has one of the highest per capita debt burdens of any state.

The governor said Monday that he expected to have his 2015 bonding cap set in February.

Malloy also reminded the GOP that most of Connecticut’s borrowing is for infrastructure, such as municipal school construction, capital programs at public colleges and universities, and for road, bridge and rail improvements.

The governor chairs the bond commission, and his budget office has sole authority to set the panel’s agenda.

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