From The Hartford (Conn.) Courant — Originally published Tuesday, March 10

... The cash from Uncle Stimulus is on its way. Is Connecticut ready to spend it wisely?

The state expects to receive nearly $3 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, money that officials hope will save or create more than 40,000 jobs. ...

... A 20-member working group, made up of state officials as well as representatives from labor, the construction industry and municipalities, has begun meeting to identify and prioritize projects that are shovel-ready and shovel-worthy. ... The members met Monday and identified $200 million worth of bridge and highway projects that Gov. M. Jodi Rell wants to get rolling by next month.

... Mrs. Rell has also asked the legislature to fast-track a bill that would shorten permitting deadlines for stimulus projects. When projects are up and running, there will be an "expediting group" from the appropriate state agencies to help keep the work moving.

So state officials thus far are with the program. We'd like to offer three suggestions:

• Put a planner on the working group; it's the group's glaring omission. A major criterion for judging whether projects should be eligible for funding is how well they advance the state's push for regional cooperation and smart growth. Thus it would help to have the advice of ... someone schooled in smart growth.

• Use a "stimulus czar." ... Though the working group is first-rate, it is still a committee, and committees tend to spend time reaching consensus. Several states have put someone in charge, and we think that's a good idea. ...

• Keep track of the "expediting" steps, to see if they can be made permanent. Transportation projects here, and in some other states, seem to drag on for years past their deadlines. ...

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