Standing near the Old Main Street bridge in Rocky Hill, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared that he had “no problem” with a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the legislature from raiding the special transportation fund.
He said when it comes to funding roads, bridges, and transit he believes his administration is spending more money on transportation “than any other administration.”
“You can slice this and dice this on an accounting basis . . . but when everything is said and done, we’re spending more than any other administration,” Malloy said Monday.
Between 2005 and 2014 about $1.3 billion raised by the gross receipts tax — one of the state’s two gasoline taxes — has been spent on non-transportation programs. But Malloy’s administration said that doesn’t tell the whole story since most of that happened during the previous administration.
According to the Malloy administration, the average investment in transportation under former Gov. M. Jodi Rell was $1.097 billion. Under the Malloy administration it’s been $1.265 billion. Rell was in office for six years. Malloy has been in office for three and a half years.
However, the Malloy administration has moved money between the special transportation account and the general fund. Malloy argued the amount being spent on transportation is still higher than in the past so the transfers between the special transportation fund and the general fund are negligible.
“If there are transfers back and forth for accounting purposes, on a net basis and a gross basis we’re spending more money,” Malloy said Monday.
The governor said Monday that his transportation investments are 165 percent greater than the ones approved under Rell in 2010.
Malloy’s Republican opponent, Tom Foley, believes the governor hasn’t upheld his end of the bargain when it comes to funding transportation.
Foley’s campaign considers the decision not to dedicate the full amount of tax revenue from the gross receipts tax to the special transportation fund to be a “raid.”
During a debate prior to the Republican primary, Foley said he would not have supported the increase in the gross receipts tax that helps support transportation. He said he supports improving transportation infrastructure and would use “savings” from other parts of the budget to do it, but didn’t offer any specific examples of how he would fund it.
Last year, Malloy signed legislation that would statutorily require the legislature — starting next July — to use all the revenue from the tax to go to the special transportation fund.
Rep. David Scribner, the ranking Republican member of the Transportation Committee, attended Malloy’s press conference Monday.
“I’d rather it not be political because we worked together to accomplish this,” Scribner said in response to a question about whether his presence undermined Foley’s argument.
Scribner said he would like to see a constitutional amendment because, “we all know statutes can be changed.”
“It’s a lot more difficult to unravel,” a constitutional amendment Scribner said. “I’d rather get the public’s thumbprint and their commitment on that because I think we’d get it.”
Three-fourths of the General Assembly would need to approve a constitutional amendment before it goes to the voters in the next statewide election. A bill that called for a constitutional amendment was passed by the Transportation Committee last year, but never made it to the House or the Senate.
Scribner said a constitutional amendment would have to be initiated by the legislature, so it won’t necessarily be up to the governor.
“If it’s good statutorily, it’s just as good and better to be constitutional because it will stick,” Scribner said.
Malloy’s office, not his campaign, held the press conference Monday to tout the additional $25 million over the last two years the state has dedicated to the local bridge program. In Connecticut, there are more than 3,400 bridges and culverts on municipally maintained roads.