Questioning Hartford’s $550 Million Bailout, Ganim issues FOI Request To State Officials

This article originally appeared in Only in Bridgeport.

 

Mixing it up on the campaign trail, as one of his rivals for governor Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin receives a massive bailout from his political benefactor Governor Dan Malloy, Mayor Joe Ganim has issued an FOI request to state budget director Ben Barnes and Treasurer Denise Nappier calling into question an “agreement that could bind Connecticut taxpayers to pay off more than $550 million in Hartford’s general obligation bond debt for the next 20-plus years.”

If you want a third Malloy term Bronin’s profile is built that way given his past advisory role for the governor and their close relationship. For Ganim, this is about two things: a sweetheart deal for a Malloy political ally and a governor who hasn’t exactly been a friend to Bridgeport over the years. Several pols on both sides of the political spectrum have questioned the Hartford bailout.

Ganim is requesting:
– Any and all documents and communications–electronic or otherwise–generated by either of your offices, or those sent and received between your offices and the City of Hartford related to or created in preparation for the debt payoff agreement between the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford.

– Please note particular interest in any documents that outlined the strategy and scope of such an agreement, and those that analyzed the legality and fiscal prudence of such a plan.

Ganim letter to Barnes and Nappier:

RE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST

Dear Secretary Barnes and Treasurer Nappier:

I recently read about an agreement between the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford in which the state agrees to pay off more than $550,000,000 of general obligation bond debt for the capital city over the next 20 years. As a matter of public policy, I support steps taken to stabilize the finances of Connecticut’s capital city. However, what is being done here seems to be outside of an equitable, overall state plan or policy to support all of our major urban areas as well as the residents of all of Connecticut’s cities and towns.

As you are well aware, Bridgeport–along with all of our cities–is in great financial need as well. We are struggling to balance budgets each year amid declining state investment–without a major bailout from the state.

It was understood that the bipartisan budget agreement enacted last fall did include a total of $55 million in emergency state funding to help municipalities equally with debt burdens, revenue restrictions, and fixed costs. Hartford was to receive the lion’s share of those funds–some $40 million over the next two years, leaving approximately $15 million to be shared, by any other cities that might apply. In exchange for this, a city would need to agree to substantial state oversight and control of our municipal budgets.

What I and others were not aware of-as it did not ever enter public discourse of the bipartisan budget agreement last fall–was an additional agreement that could bind Connecticut taxpayers to pay off more than $550 million in Hartford’s general obligation bond debt for the next 20-plus years.

There also appears to be a lack of clarity of intent in the budget approved by the General Assembly, and also a lack of clarity as to whether the lawmakers, no less the public, had an adequate chance to evaluate and analyze the legal, fiscal and bond rating impact of such a substantial agreement to add more than half a billion dollars to Connecticut’s debt burden for one municipality alone. This is particularly relevant at a time when the state’s bond rating has been downgraded due to major, substantial budget deficits.

It appears that both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders were uninformed that this agreement assumes and pays off Hartford’s bond debt over the next 20 years. State Senate President Martin Looney and Majority Leader Bob Duff recently communicated to you both that they themselves question whether or not this was the true intent of the Hartford aid package in the bipartisan budget agreement.

As such, please consider this a formal request, pursuant to Connecticut Freedom of Information statutes, to obtain the following:

– Any and all documents and communications–electronic or otherwise–generated by either of your offices, or those sent and received between your offices and the City of Hartford related to or created in preparation for the debt payoff agreement between the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford.

– Please note particular interest in any documents that outlined the strategy and scope of such an agreement, and those that analyzed the legality and fiscal prudence of such a plan.

I look forward to hearing your response and reviewing these documents in order to have a better understanding of the rationale of this public policy and how it may impact the residents of my city.

This article originally appeared in Only in Bridgeport.