The state Bond Commission put $1.1 billion on the state’s credit card Friday, including money for transportation, school construction, a Sandy Hook memorial and the state pier in New London.
“We are going to be doing more borrowing because interest rates are at historic lows. We can borrow 20% more at the same price. It makes a big difference,” Gov. Ned Lamont said.
The state can borrow up to $2 billion this year.
“My instinct this year is that we’re going to do more bonding, more investment, more investment in housing, more investment in it, more investment in some of what you saw today,” Lamont said.
But Lamont says the state is still on a debt diet.
“There did seem to be a valid point and we’re still something like $900 million under our bonding cap,” Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-Niantic, said.
Cheeseman said the only reason the bond cap exists is because of a historic agreement between Democrats and Republicans on the state budget in 2017.
“I do think if we’re going to put more money on the state credit card and the state taxpayers are going to be footing the bill we have to know what we’re borrowing for and is there a valid reason for it,” Cheeseman said.
“We’re staying within our caps. If you’re implying anything otherwise we’re very strict about that,” Lamont said.
The state will borrow about $500 million to fund transportation projects and $300 million for school building projects.
“Are there things we ought to be paying out of our checking account as opposed to adding to our debt and I think that’s a valid question,” Cheeseman said.
Not all the votes were unanimous.
Cheeseman voted against borrowing to dredge the New London Pier.
“When we’re hearing there are things that aren't budgeted it’s going to be our citizens who are going to be paying the price,” Cheeseman said.
The 11-member Bond Commission chaired by Lamont also approved $2.5 million for a Sandy Hook memorial. It was one of dozens of projects approved by the commission.
The borrowing comes in the wake of $2.6 billion in federal funding the state has received.
“Affordable housing, transportation, these are things that aren’t necessarily covered by federal money. We’ll see what comes out in the infrastructure bill and that may influence our thinking a little bit,” Lamont said.