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Conn. governor wants 'shovel ready' projects

By Susan Haigh
Associated Press / November 29, 2008
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HARTFORD - Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked state agencies to come up with a list of projects that are ready to be built if the state receives federal stimulus funding.

Rell directed the departments of Public Works, Transportation, and Economic and Community Development to prioritize any "shovel ready" projects. They may include road, bridge, rail, and public buildings projects and economic development and housing initiatives in the final design stages.

"I want them ready to go, so if the money comes through then we're ready to put the shovel in the ground," Rell said today.

The Republican governor is scheduled to attend a meeting of governors from across the country in Philadelphia on Tuesday. President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are expected to talk with governors about how the economic crisis is crimping states and their budgets.

Obama has asked Congress to ready an economic stimulus program for him to sign as soon as possible after he takes office on Jan. 20.

Many economists think that aid to state and local governments should be tops on the agenda for any new stimulus spending, as they have less borrowing authority than the federal government during an economic downturn. That means states are slashing budgets as the slowdown causes tax revenues fall.

Connecticut's current fiscal year budget, which ends June 30, 2009, is at least $250 million in deficit, despite efforts to cut spending. The next two fiscal years are estimated to be $6 billion in the red.

Meanwhile, the state lost 3,600 jobs from September to October, driven partly by a large drop in education and health services positions.

Employment in Connecticut was just under 1.7 million and the unemployment rate of 6.5 percent was up from September's rate of 6.1 percent. Connecticut's rate now matches the national unemployment figure.

At Tuesday's meeting, Rell said she plans to argue that infrastructure projects should be covered by 100 percent federal funding. Traditionally, states provide a match of 20 percent.

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