Rell to request federal funding

With the economy in recession, Connecticut, like nearly every other state in the union, is turning to the federal government for help.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell joined 40 other governors meeting with President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden in Philadelphia on Tuesday at a meeting of the National Governor’s Association. Last week, Rell announced that she is asking for federal funding for infrastructure projects throughout the state. She has also directed state agencies to have projects “shovel-ready” so that they can begin as soon as funding is secured.

In a statement, Rell said she is asking the federal government to foot 100 percent of the bill for infrastructure eliminating the usual 20 percent state contribution.

“The best way out of the economic doldrums is by literally working our way out – by creating as many jobs as possible, as soon as possible,” Rell said in a statement released Monday.

As the state is facing a financial situation similar to its 1990-1991 budget crisis — when the General Assembly passed the first ever state income tax — state elected officials are citing the need for federal funding.

“The federal government can operate at a deficit, whereas states cannot,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano ’81. “We need their help.”

Nancy Wyman, the state comptroller, released new budget figures Monday showing the current deficit above 1 percent of the state budget, at $338 million. Under these circumstances, Rell is required by law to submit a new budget proposal to the General Assembly to close the gap.

Combined, the 40 governors at the meeting governors requested $136 billion for infrastructure and $40 billion to defray health care costs.

Rell said she was pleased with the outcome of the meeting with Obama and is optimistic about the prospects of federal help.

“I think to have this dialogue, to have this conversation going back and forth, it’s very helpful and opens that line of communication for the future,” she told the AP in after the meeting.

Speaker of the House James Amann, a Democrat, told the News last week he believes the new administration will be more helpful to states.

“Every indicator points to them shifting funding back to states,” he said. “We anticipate [Obama] taking the federal-state relationship in a new, positive direction.”

Recent projections by the state Office of Policy and Management predict a nearly $6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Rell will introduce her budget for that period in February.

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