Brief: In State of the State address, Rell talks DOT changes, economic stimulus

In her annual State of the State address Wednesday, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced plans to restructure the state Department of Transportation and expressed interest in working with the legislature to pass an economic stimulus package.

Rell said she will split the DOT into two branches — a Department of Highways and a Department of Public Transportation, Aviation and Ports — by 2010.

“DOT as an institution has simply become too bureaucratic, too inefficient and too single-minded in its problem-solving approach,” Rell said during her address at the state capitol in Hartford. “Bold reforms are necessary. … In this way, each agency will be able to focus on its own goals and the standing of public transportation, and all of its ramifications for responsible growth will be enhanced.”

Rell also said she is in the process of piecing together an economic stimulus plan for the state. Because tax rebates are not possible this year, given the tightness of the state budget, Rell said she will push for a cap on local property taxes and the resurrection of a tax exemption for state residents who purchase certain kinds of environmentally friendly appliances.

Referring to last summer’s triple murder in Cheshire — in which two men on parole allegedly killed a mother and her two daughters in their home — Rell once again proposed a “three-strikes” law under which criminals who commit three violent felonies are given life prison sentences. The legislature voted down the law the last time Rell proposed it in January.

The speech marked the beginning of a new legislative session.

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