Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has shown leadership and vision for proposing a long overdue investment in transportation. Prior administrations have ignored increased traffic flows and deteriorating roads and bridges. It should be one of government’s top priorities to ensure safe infrastructure for the millions of people that use it every day.
Our Connecticut Department of Transportation workers, who maintain our roads and bridges, see first-hand when problems develop and then continue to deteriorate due to the lack of funding for staff and repairs. Lawmakers seem to shy away from having an honest discussion with the taxpayers about our crumbling transportation infrastructure and how we can raise the money to rebuild it. That discussion would happen quickly in the aftermath of a catastrophic failure.
Everyone wants progress, however nobody wants change.
Under Malloy’s proposal, it appears that these issues will finally start to be addressed. Only through this investment can we ensure a sound infrastructure for the safety of the people who commute every day as well as for the workers who maintain our highways as cars and trucks drive pass at high speeds.
The legislature will have to begin the difficult work of determining how we will pay for these investments. It is no easy task to determine how we, as a state, will fund a 30-year plan that costs $100 billion. However, without long-term planning it will never happen. It is also important that any plan to fund this massive undertaking also adequately addresses funding for staffing levels and continued preventative maintenance. There is no benefit to Connecticut if we overhaul our transportation infrastructure and don’t fund adequate maintenance once completed.
There is a common misconception that taxes are the major factor for a business in deciding to stay in Connecticut or to move operations to Connecticut. In fact it is transportation infrastructure and energy that are the major deciding factors. As the legislature debates this proposal over the coming months, they should remember a recent report issued by the Department of Revenue Services that evidenced the tax burden disparity between the wealthiest and poorest residents in Connecticut.
In a state with great wealth but also great income inequality, this unequal burden is regressive. It reduces opportunities for people trying to enter and remain in the middle-class since they have far less disposable income. Currently, a hedge fund manager pays a lower percentage of taxes on their income than the custodian who cleans the corporate office.
It is clear that this transportation overhaul is too expensive to be done solely by raising the income tax rates on the wealthiest residents. Creating a comprehensive and permanent funding mechanism to have a world class transportation system in Connecticut is the competitive advantage we need to attract and keep, business, tourism, and residents.
Our union members take great pride in their work making the roads as safe as possible for the traveling public. In the coming months, we look forward to joining the discussion in how to pay for these vital improvements. Most importantly, we look forward to helping maintain these investments, and to being a partner in rebuilding Connecticut’s economy.
Ron McLellan is president of the Connecticut Employees Union Independent.
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