HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — As the legislature finalizes the state budget there is also a companion bill that concerns bonding of the states. Projects that essentially go on the state credit card.
There was an idea presented by Senator John Fonfara of Hartford concerning an Equitable Investment Fund. H.B. 6443.
Opponents say the measure was unconstitutional because it would have allowed non-elected officials to decide where millions of taxpayer dollars would be invested.
House Minority Leader Republican Vin Candelora wrote to Attorney General William Tong for an opinion.
Today, Candelora issued a statement saying:
From the moment it was pitched it was abundantly clear to House Republicans that the Connecticut Equitable Investment Fund was a concept that deserved intense scrutiny, and it’s a no surprise that Attorney General Tong shares our concern about the constitutionality of a proposal that would see an unelected group of individuals manage a tremendous amount of state revenue without legislative oversight.”
The Attorney General weighed in and concluded in a letter; It is likely that a Connecticut court would rule that §13 lacks the requisite standards and limits to survive a separation of powers challenge.
Frankly, we remained shocked about what Finance Committee leadership attempted to do in H.B. 6443. In essence, it was a slush fund. As members of the General Assembly, it’s our shared responsibility to uphold the principles of the State Constitution. This formal opinion from the Attorney General should serve as notice to Democrats who are intent on making a considerable investment in our cities during the final days of session—in developing their new bonding-focused strategy, they should stay within the framework of our Constitution and ensure there’s an appropriate level of oversight.”
House Speaker Matt Ritter told reporters on a virtual morning press conference that his idea for a Community Equity Fund is still being negotiated with the Administration, but is not fraught with concerns over constitutionality.
The $1.5 Billion over 5 years would include a 9-member commission of elected and appointment members who would approve projects that communities would file an application for funding around.
33 -towns in alliance districts around the state would have this fund available to them for projects. DECD Commissioner David Lehman on behalf of the Governor, is working out the details.
Speaker Ritter also said, “you’ll have oversite and public hearings working with DECD. Again you can find synergy and let mayor’s know where we are all looking. The more we communicate the better we all are. It’s $300-million a year. The goal is for 5 years And then reauthorization after 5.”
The program would be part of an overall bonding bill which would also leverage federal funds coming into the state through the American Rescue Plan.