New record on no budget, worsening economic conditions, business tax delinquents exposed

August 24, 2009
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Here’s what has been news for the past week in the Connecticut political life.

In Washington, a little more than $31.5 million in grants has been released by the U.S. Department of Transportation through the economic stimulus package for improving the railway infrastructure in New Haven and Danbury. Senator Joe Lieberman (CT-I) praised the project not only for the improvement that it will bring to Connecticut’s railway system but also for creating new jobs.

The Department of Homeland Security granted close to $580,000 to the State of Connecticut Department of Developmental Services and six fire departments in the state through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Program (SAFER), Assistance to Firefighters’ Grants Program (AFG) and Fire Prevention and Safety Program (FP&S). Both Senator Chris Dodd and Senator Joe Lieberman authored and co-sponsored the FIRE Act nine years ago, and authored and co-sponsored respectively the FIRE Act six years ago as reported on Senator Lieberman’s official website. The legislations provide local fire department with funds both for improvement of their services and for eliminating possible deficits in their budgets.

The Department of Treasury awarded $432,000 to The Community’s Bank in Bridgeport. The funds will be spent on providing commercial real estate loans to distressed communities through the Bank Enterprise Award Program (BEA), as mentioned on Senator Dodd’s official website. The purpose of the BEA Program is to fill in gaps in local markets by providing funds to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) such as The Community’s Bank in Bridgeport. Senator Chris Dodd praised the release of the award.

Congressman Jim Himes (D – 4th District) will hold two Congress on Your Corner Events the upcoming Sunday – in Weston and Wilton – as reported on his official website.

In Hartford, Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell let the public know about a new $27 million fund in the form of bonds to the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority (CHESLA), a program designed to make the payment of college degrees more affordable. The new fund’s interest rate will be loaned at 6.8%, which is lower compared to the current $30 million one (6.99%). Connecticut students seeking undergraduate, graduate or professional degree at a non-profit U.S. college or university as well as out-of-state students seeking the same at a Connecticut college or university are available to receive loans from the program, as reported on the Governor’s website.

The Governor also directed the state Department of Labor to work with nine northeast states to receive $3.9 million in federal funds from the federal Labor Department to expand green collar jobs in the state. A regional website regarding the green project is expected to be developed.

Connecticut doesn’t have a budget yet, thus breaking a record for the longest time the state has been without a budget. That previous record was marked 18 years ago – on August 22, 1991. Speaking of the budget, Republican American (rep-am.com) let the public know that tax delinquents in Connecticut owe the state between $400 million and $500 million in sales taxes. The State of Connecticut is projected to have $8.6 billion in debt for the next two years which is the main reason why the Republican Governor and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly are in a deadlock regarding the budget. To balance the budget, among the Governor’s proposals are cuts in health care, raising taxes and fees by $500 million among which to be the state cigarette tax from $2 to $3, while the Democrats generally refuse to back on healthcare and want to raise taxes and fees by $1.8 billion.

Comparatively bad are the news regarding the Connecticut economy. The Hartford Courant reported that roughly 6% of all home loans as of June 30 are either in foreclosure or 90 or more days past due – up from 5.3% – compared to 8% nationwide. Meanwhile, unemployment rate dropped from 8% to 7.8%, but State Department of Labor spokesperson Nancy Steffens announced that eight of the top ten industries in Connecticut lost jobs. The total number of jobs in Connecticut dropped by 2,800.

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