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Rell Budget: Leaning Heavily on Obama Stimulus Plan
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Governor Rell has proposed plugging state deficits through fiscal year 2011 by using $2 billion dollars of federal stimulus money. But just how much Connecticut will receive from the federal government is still up in the air.

The U.S. Senate is still working on its version of a federal stimulus bill as Democrats and Republicans debate over tax cuts and spending. Last week, the House approved an $819 billion dollar stimulus package. Dr. Larry Summers, White House Economics Director,has been holding conference calls with reporters around the country to breakdown what local communities can expect. The White House says states facing budget shortfalls are able to use stimulus money to plug deficits caused by healthcare and education costs.

And Summers says it will also help maintain vital services.

"This will protect local communities, preventing the kind of declines that would otherwise take place in levels of spending and hiring of new teachers or keeping cops on the street."

According to the White House, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help create or save thousands of jobs in Connecticut over the next two years in sectors that include transportation, clean energy and healthcare.  It also says the fiscal plan will offer an additional $100 per month in unemployment benefits and provide funding to modernize at least 80 schools in the state.

Summers says about 75 percent of the stimulus money will be allocated to states within 18 months of the time President Obama signs the legislation.

Business Agencies To Combine Under DECD

The Governor’s budget proposals would unify all of the state’s business agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Economic and Community Development.  

Governor Jodi Rell says she’d like to see DECD responsible for business development from soup to nuts – bringing in start-up financing, business recruitment, the arts tourism and film programs, as well as the Small Business Innovation Research program and state efforts to develop brownfield sites.  Rell also wants to see the Connecticut Development Authority and Connecticut Innovations merged.

These consolidations will eliminate duplication of services, ease confusion among business leaders about where to go to for help and untangle the variety of agencies, acronyms and applications that slow the process of job creation.

The state’s largest business organization, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, welcomes the change.  The CBIA’s Bonnie Stewart says they’re glad to see smaller and more streamlined state government. 

We have a lot of agencies where people aren’t sure where to call, because they’re not sure who does what.  So bringing them together so they act more unified, and are able to answer the constituents questions – a great thing.

There’s also been a guarded welcome from one of the affected industries, tourism.  Some agency heads say they’ll be glad to be part of DECD, but they’re concerned about how much cash may be cut as part of the move.

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