Cities and towns received a much-needed fiscal shot in the arm this week when Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration released $30 million in long-overdue road reconstruction grants.

Municipal leaders have been clamoring since July for their Town Aid Road grants, one of the chief funding sources of local road improvements.

The grant traditionally is dispersed in two equal installments in July and January.

But communities initially fell victim to last year’s eight-month-long state budget battle between the Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, which wasn’t resolved until Sept. 8.

Shortly afterward the administration reported that state government was approaching its statutory bonding limit. And since Rell and legislators decided to bond this year’s Town Aid Road program, rather than use tax receipts and other General Fund revenues to cover it, the administration said it was forced to wait until there was sufficient capacity on the state’s credit card.

Based on the latest revenue forecasts and a preliminary list of projects earmarked to receive state bonding next fiscal year, Connecticut would exceed its statutory bonding cap by $242 million, according to Rell’s budget agency, the Office of Policy and Management.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the New Haven-based lobbying arm for the state’s 169 cities and towns, has complained that many communities scaled back or canceled numerous projects during the fall construction season, financing others through loans or by spending municipal budget reserves.

CCM Executive Director James Finley said the release of the funds, which had been endorsed by the State Bond Commission earlier this month, should allow for a more robust local road maintenance program this spring,

“Getting the funding at this point will allow towns to play catch up,” he said.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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