Conn.'s fair share

The allegation shows up frequently, coming from candidates for state legislature, advocacy groups decrying cuts in their state funding, lobbyists and policymakers - Connecticut doesn't get its fair share of federal expenditures to the states.

But is it true?

An upcoming study by the General Assembly's bipartisan Program Review and Investigations Committee is supposed to provide that answer. It's a worthwhile undertaking.

Accessing available federal funds is a complex and often arbitrary endeavor. Projects need to match up with federal laws. Build a bike path and a federal agency might not contribute anything. Build a bike path near a bus stop and call it an intermodal transportation system and the feds could well pay for it.

Services have to be coded right, submissions filed within mandated schedules, opportunities for grants recognized. And as of now Connecticut has no mechanism for measuring how well state agencies do in securing federal largesse. A proposal on how to correct that failure needs to be among the committee's recommendations.

A look at the raw numbers brings into question the validity of the concerns. In the most recent fiscal year Connecticut received $7.7 billion out of the $630 billion the federal government distributed to states and municipalities, ranking 18th on a per capita basis, seemingly not a bad showing from one of the wealthier states.

The current fiscal year budget, ending June 30, anticipates only $3.5 billion in federal funds, a result, it appears, of economic stimulus programs drying up.

If the coming review produces a better system for tapping available federal funds, and a way to monitor success in doing so, it will prove more valuable than most of the studies the state undertakes.

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