Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed former New Haven state Rep. Cameron Staples to chair a commission tasked with figuring out how to fund his $100 billion, 30-year vision for improving Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.
Malloy said the panel will begin its work in April and is expected to conclude by the end of the summer, which is after the General Assembly adjourns in June. The panel is expected to present Malloy with a “menu of options” on how “we pay for a best-in-class transportation system.”
One of the more controversial options being discussed as an option to fund transportation improvements is tolls. A bill that would allow electronic tolling to be placed on Connecticut highways is making its way through the legislative process and could become law before the panel finishes its work.
“I want to be clear here. They can be part of the discussion, but tolls aren’t going to solve the problem in and of themselves,” Malloy said.
He said tolls only gets the state about one-third of the way toward funding the improvements.
It’s too soon to say whether the General Assembly will call a special session to approve the financing recommendations, but the governor believes the public wants to move toward a long-term plan.
“The legislature’s got a lot of work to do with respect to the budget this year, as well as tons of legislative proposals that have been made, when they decide to take this up always is their prerogative,” Malloy said.
The governor said he’s pleased with the progress his transportation initiative has made.
“You know I watch what people say. Nobody’s attacking this,” Malloy said.
He said he’s encouraged by how robust the transportation conversation has been, but acknowledged that it can’t be completed “until we know how we’re going to pay for it.”
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, was upset he wasn’t consulted by the governor before the panel was named. He said Malloy mentioned that he would consult with “the leaders of your caucuses” when he gave his budget speech.
“Despite the governor’s words, my caucus was never consulted on the transportation commission or its members,” Fasano said. “We were kept in the dark. The panel announced today appears to be made up of mostly Democrats, and those who aren’t Democrats are inclined towards tolls or raising the gas tax. Where is the bipartisanship we were promised? Where is our seat at the table? My concern is that this group may be of like mind with the governor and predisposed.”
Malloy named nine-members to the panel Tuesday during a press conference outside his Capitol office.
Staples, who represented New Haven in the General Assembly, is the president and CEO of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and former Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee co-chairman. He will chair the committee.
The eight other members include Beth Osborne, a senior policy advisor at Transportation for America; William Bonvillan, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Washington office; Joan Carty, president and CEO of the Housing Development Fund; Bert Hunter, chief investment officer at the Connecticut Green Bank; Oz Griebel, president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance; Paul Timpanelli, president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council; Stanley Mickus, marketing and public affairs for Cross Sound Ferry Services; and Emil Frankel, the former Transportation Commissioner.