HARTFORD-Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposes to spend nearly $600 million in state funds over the next two years for smart growth initiatives across the state. The governor’s operating budget proposals would include increase annual grants to regional planning agencies from $640,000 to $1 million and more than $1.6 million over the two-year budget period for enhanced global positioning information to help municipalities make informed land use decisions.

The proposals also include $1 million each year to help cities and towns upgrade their local plans for conservation and development, state officials note.

The governor proposes the state appropriate a total of $245 million in state bonds per year for the next two years for clean water projects, along with annual funding of $10 million each for the state’s Recreation and Natural Heritage Program and Open Space Grant Program. Her proposals also include $10 million per year for the Farmland Preservation Program and $5 million per year for the Brownfield Remediation Pilot Program and $2.5 million per year for grants to regional brownfield redevelopment loan funds.

“We know we need economic development and progress, and we know we need housing and other projects that consume land,” Gov. Rell says. “Our task is to find a way to balance these needs with thoughtful and forward-thinking policies that will preserve – forever preserve – the character and beauty of our state. The path to balance is responsible growth.”

The governor’s budget proposals will also provide funding for a “Responsible Growth Task Force,” which would be charged with reporting its recommendations by October 1. If funding is approved, the panel would seek to develop criteria and standards for measuring projects and defining “significant regional impact,” determining ways to prohibit the use of state development funds in designated protection areas and recommending improvements in laws governing the transfer of development rights.

Gov. Rell also wants to establish a separate Executive Advisory Group that would work with the governor on prioritizing projects that link transportation, housing, job creation and repair or replacement of existing facilities, and on development of a proposed $20 million Responsible Growth Incentive Fund for Fiscal 2009.

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