Elizabeth Regan
Connecticut voters may get the chance to weigh in on a “lockbox” measure that would prevent state government from siphoning money from the Special Transportation Fund to cover other General Fund expenses.

A bill that would send to referendum a constitutional amendment protecting transportation funds cleared the Government Administration and Elections Committee on Tuesday. It’s now on the House calendar.

Three Republicans and one Democrat voted against the bill.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy used much of this year’s State of the State address to advocate for a “lockbox” to prevent lawmakers from diverting funds collected for transportation projects. The governor framed the policy as a prerequisite to collecting additional revenue to fund a 30-year plan to upgrade Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.

The bill was one of two Malloy filed to create a lockbox. One is a change in statute that he could sign into law if it’s approved by the legislature. It was sent to the House by the Transportation Committee last month. The constitutional amendment would need to be approved by voters after the legislature either passed it with a super majority or passed it two years in a row. In either case, it takes more than one year to amend the constitution.

State Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, said amending the state constitution wouldn’t be his first choice, but he understands the practical necessity.

“I don’t like messing with the constitution for things that really are more appropriately legislation,” he said. “But I get it. You know, I get it. If it’s not in [the constitution], we can change it again next year.”

The constitutional amendment would require all money in the Special Transportation Fund to be used “solely for transportation purposes, including the payment of debt service on obligations of the state incurred for transportation purposes.”

It also specifies that all sources of funds required to be deposited in the transportation fund continue to be placed there. The bill would prevent the legislature from passing a law allowing the money to be used for any purpose other than transportation.