Share the debt diet

No doubt the past eight years were a frustrating time to be a legislative member of the State Bond Commission. Having massaged all kinds of numbers and decided which capital projects were the most worthy of being funded by public debt, they are still the minority of the 10-member panel that is controlled by the governor. They don't get the deciding vote and under former Gov. Dannel Malloy they didn't get much say.

A lopsided vote last week by the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to wrest control of the commission signals that legislators have had enough of going to the governor "to beg," in their words.

But their timing for a wholesale transfer of power over the state's capital projects credit card is poor, and they know it. Connecticut is one of the most indebted of all states. Gov. Ned Lamont's call for a "debt diet" that would limit new general obligation bonds to $1.3 billion a year makes sense in principle, even if the specific ceiling could be made more negotiable. His proposal also appeals to the credit rating agencies, whose approval is essential.

The bill has support from both Democrats and Republicans, who make a good argument for the importance of the governor listening to the informed opinion of legislators about what their constituencies need. Unfortunately, the other side of that coin is the desire to make the voters back home happy. The Connecticut General Assembly, usually under the control of Democrats, as it is now, is easily tempted to bring home the bacon. If the commission goes under the control of the legislature, the debt diet may not amount to much after all. That would not be good.

We urge the legislature and the governor to work it out so that the outcome of debating this legitimate issue is a sharing of power, not a shifting of it. For now and until the state's debt load can be appreciably controlled, make use of a shared responsibility to set the bar higher for a project to be bonded. Parochialism won't get the state where it needs to be.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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