Sweeping Community Investment Act funds will do more harm than good

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The community garden center in New London.

The state’s fiscal crisis is forcing the administration and the members of the General Assembly to make tough decisions in order to close the budget gap in the current fiscal year and craft a new biennial budget. We understand that sacrifices will need to be made across all sectors of the government – impacting all of us. That said, we strongly contend that sweeping dedicated funds, such as the Community Investment Act (CIA), into the state general fund will only do more harm than good by cutting off a consistent source of funding and reinvestment for our communities, while defeating the very purpose of having established a dedicated fund.

Enacted with tremendous bipartisan support in 2005 to address the social and environmental impacts of suburban sprawl, the CIA provides increased funding for state land use programs for open space conservation, farmland preservation/dairy production, historic properties preservation and affordable housing development. Funded through a $40 surcharge on local recording fees, the CIA has funded 1,400 projects statewide with $152M invested in our communities, including the leverage of millions in private and public dollars.

The CIA is an economic driver. Investments in land protection and local farm businesses have contributed to the viability of the $873 million outdoor recreation industry and the $3.5 billion agricultural industry together generating 28,000 jobs. CIA projects have generated over 3,000 jobs in the affordable housing and historic preservation sectors. CIA support has saved 157 dairy farm businesses. The fact that those numbers continue to increase is a testament to the success and importance of the program.

The impacts of the CIA are all around us: In New Haven (N.H. Community Gardens), Avon (Peachtree Village), Southington (Community Cultural Arts Center), Stamford (Ferguson Library), Cornwall (Trinity Camp Conservation Project), Tolland (Knofla Family Trust Open Space), Scotland (Bass Farm), New London (FRESH Community Gardens), Essex (The Preserve) and in every town across the state – projects that define the places that make communities more attractive for residents, tourists, and businesses.

A town by town list of projects is at www.communityinvestmentact.org.

The CIA was set up as a dedicated revenue source outside the budget and the public has the right to expect that this funding source will be used as intended. Continuous raids on the fund will not only put a halt to investments slated for projects under all four of the programs for which the CIA was created – land use programs with few, if any, other sources of funding — but also set a very dangerous and perhaps irreversible precedent for future sweeps that will end the CIA as we know it.

The CIA is working. Indeed, the efficiency and efficacy of this program in investing in every community in the state, precisely as it was intended to do, is exactly why its funds should NOT be transferred to the general fund. Continuing to make cuts to this vital source of community funding will do little to ease the current budget crisis and may actually result in further adverse impacts upon our state’s already burdened economy; that is a road we can ill afford to follow.

What do you think?

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