Gov. Ned Lamont Mark Pazniokas / CTMIRROR.ORG

With the autumn stretch of Connecticut’s election season less than two months away, the State Bond Commission approved more than $850 million in financing Friday, including more than $60 million for dozens of projects in lawmakers’ home districts.

The projects endorsed by the 10-member panel, chaired by Gov. Ned Lamont, include a major $490 million investment in highways, bridges, local roads and transportation safety measures. 

The panel also approved financing for several housing projects, economic development initiatives and more than $150 million for renovations and equipment upgrades for state buildings and parks.

“We’ve tried really hard over the last 3 1/2 years to hold the line on our fixed costs,” said Lamont, who challenged the legislature to curtail borrowing and embrace a debt diet when he took office in January 2019. “I think we’ve done that pretty effectively.”

Connecticut’s bonded debt has grown just 4% during Lamont’s first biennial budget cycle. But with more than $27 billion in bonded debt, Connecticut still ranks among the most indebted states, per capita, in the nation.

“Today, I think, you’re going to see … what we’re doing in terms of quality of life, what we’re doing in terms of, you know, those investments in our towns that make an enormous difference,” Lamont added.

The commission traditionally approves a significant amount of financing for local projects during the summer or fall in state election years, spread among Democratic and Republican-controlled districts.

All items endorsed Friday passed unanimously.

Connecticut’s largest cities again fared well.

A total of $7 million was approved for the city of Hartford, including $2 million for brownfield remediation, $1.5 million to plan a walking and cycling park between the capital city and Bloomfield, $1 million for the Elizabeth Park Conservancy and another $1 million for capital improvements to various city-owned properties.

The Northside Neighborhood Alliance, the YMCA of Greater Hartford and the Boys & Girls Club chapter for Hartford each were slated to receive $500,000.

The commission approved $2.6 million in financing for renovations to the Institute Library of New Haven and to relocate the New Haven Trowbridge Youth Center, along with another $6.8 million to support affordable and senior housing projects.

Bridgeport was slated to receive $200,000 to reconstruct Ellsworth Park Field.

The state reserved nearly $1.35 million to replace an emergency generator at Griffin Hospital in Derby, almost $900,000 to upgrade community and school auditoriums in East Hartford, $500,000 to renovate Greenwich’s volunteer fire house, $3 million to upgrade a residential care home in Norwich and $1 million to rehabilitate sports fields in Stamford.

Lamont said these and other investments in Connecticut’s communities would accelerate the state’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, help generate activity in municipal downtown areas and help economic growth.

To complement these community investments, the bond commission approved nearly $70 million in financing for various housing projects — most involving affordable units — and another $70 million for small business supports and other economic development initiatives.

The largest investments approved Friday involved $490 million earmarked for transportation, including $143 million for bus and railway equipment and other enhancements, $64 million for local road improvement grants and $20 million for new systems on state highways to detect and deter wrong-way driving.

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.