Rep. Betty Boukus at her last Bond Commission meeting. Mark Pazniokas /
State Rep. Betty Boukus cradles a bouquet of roses at the State Bond Commission meeting Tuesday.
State Rep. Betty Boukus cradles a bouquet of roses at the State Bond Commission meeting Tuesday. Mark Pazniokas /

For nearly half of her 22-year legislative career, Rep. Betty Boukus of Plainville has played a key role in deciding which capital projects across Connecticut will receive state financing.

Tuesday Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the State Bond Commission honored Boukus, who lost her re-election bid last week, as a tireless public servant who has assisted every corner of the state.

Malloy, who chairs the bond commission, frequently deferred to Boukus at past meetings as she interjected one final appeal for a project, or expressed her appreciation for the governor’s support.

Boukus is co-chair of the powerful bonding subcommittee of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and holds a non-voting seat on the bond commission. And the commission has final say over whether the state will borrow to fund most capital projects, including: school and transportation construction; state building maintenance; open space and farmland preservation; and smaller, community-based initiatives

“You tortured me, so we’re going to torture you,” Malloy jokingly told Boukus as he opened Tuesday’s commission meeting with a round of farewells to the Plainville lawmaker.

The governor issued a proclamation thanking Boukus and stating she “earned the deep respect and love of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle” by energetically working “to do what was best for the state of Connecticut.”

“Betty Boukus is a force of nature,” said Rep. Livvy Floren of Greenwich, ranking GOP representative on the bonding subcommittee. “She knows the process, she knows the people, and she knows how to get things done.”

Floren, whose role often requires that she and Boukus travel together all over Connecticut to research projects in line for state funding, said, “I felt as though we were ‘Thelma and Louise.’”

“Your career has made a difference in the lives of many, many people,” said Rep. Jeff Berger, D-Waterbury, co-chair of the finance committee.

Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, who co-chairs the bonding subcommittee with Boukus, said his colleague never brought partisan politics or regional allegiance to her job.

When approached by anyone to consider a project’s worthiness for funding, “you never saw it as a Republican or a Democratic request,” Leone told Boukus. “You saw it as a request from someone whose community needed something.”

Boukus couldn’t always accommodate everyone’s appeal for funds, particularly in recent years as state finances have gotten tighter. Earlier this year she receive bipartisan praise and support for a plan to cancel nearly $1 billion in planned borrowing to keep state finances in compliance with a statutory bonding cap.

But regardless of whether she supported a funding request or not, “she did it with grace,” said Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, the finance committee’s other co-chair. “We won’t forget that, Betty, or your commitment to the state of Connecticut.”

Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Melody Currey, a bond commission member and former state representative, called Boukus a mentor and praised her ability to look to the state’s needs, and not just those of her own district.

“Everybody calls you Betty because they know you so well,” Currey said, “but you are a representative” of the entire state.

The commissioner added that Boukus, despite her cooperative nature, was not careless with the state’s resources. “You asked the hard questions,” Currey said. “You fought back when it was necessary.”

Boukus, who choked back tears in addressing the commission, told the members, “I have absolutely loved working with you. … I love our state. I love going place to place and seeing what they got” by investing state funds.”

Though there were times she had to say ‘no’ to funding requests, Boukus said she tried to add, whenever possible,” “maybe we can work it out.”

She called her friendship with Floren “something I will treasure my entire life.”

Boukus praised Malloy as “a visionary. And visionaries sometimes aren’t recognized when their views differ from others.”

Boukus, who lost the 22nd House District contest last week to Plainville Republican William Petit Jr., will serve until her term expires on Jan. 4.

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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