(Updated 1:43 p.m.) Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told business leaders Tuesday that he wants a constitutional amendment for his transportation lockbox. Afterward, he told the news media that he will actively campaign against anyone who votes against it.
Malloy didn’t get the three-quarters vote he needed last week during a special session to get the constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot.
“If it goes down again you can be assured I’ll campaign against anybody who didn’t vote for it,” Malloy told reporters after his speech to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.
Malloy used his annual speech to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce to announce that he planned to reintroduce the lockbox legislation in February when the General Assembly reconvenes for its regular session. The language would have to be different than what was proposed during the special session, but Malloy doesn’t know yet exactly how it will be different.
The resolution passed both chambers, but the House vote fell 14 short of the three-quarters it needed.
“Every resident in Connecticut should know that every dollar they put into transportation should be spent on transportation,” Malloy said.
Malloy said the account shouldn’t be raided and that’s what the resolution should make clear. Republican lawmakers were concerned the funds earmarked for the fund would be diverted before they reached the fund.
“Quite frankly, I don’t understand what their position is,” Malloy said of Republican lawmakers.
Republicans were trying to secure the dedicated funding streams for transportation before they reach the lockbox, while Democratic lawmakers were in favor of something less strict.
“I don’t think you can tie the hands of the legislature in perpetuity in how it pays its bills and what bills it pays,” Malloy said. “What I do believe you can do is tie their hands with respect to how they would pay out or invest dollars that are already paid into that account.”
Malloy made no overtures Tuesday to the three Democratic lawmakers and 37 Republican lawmakers who voted against the lockbox last week.
His comments were not well received by Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano.
“It’s inappropriate for the governor to resort to bully tactics and making executive threats to secure the votes he needs to pass legislation,” Fasano said. “All legislators have a right to disagree, including those Republicans and three Democrats who voted no. Republicans agree with the governor’s theory, but some believed it simply wasn’t strong enough.”
Fasano said even though the resolution passed the Senate unanimously, Republicans raised real concerns and proposed amendments.
“We proposed amendments that would have strengthened the lockbox further by securing revenue to the transportation fund, thereby prohibiting the past practice of intercepting transportation money for other uses; yet they were all rejected by Democrats,” Fasano said. “If the governor wanted to make the lockbox stronger he could ensure sound funding for transportation by better protecting the sources of revenue. Conversation to strengthen legislation certainly would enhance Connecticut’s transportation fund and should always be welcomed, not dismissed.”
Southeastern Connecticut Republicans said they voted against the lockbox because the language wasn’t strong enough to prevent future legislatures from raiding the fund.
“This bill failed to define the source of revenue coming in, allows diversions before the money even gets to the fund, and even allows the legislature to continue adding expenditures,” Reps. John Scott, Mike France, Kathleen McCarty; Aundre Bumgardner, and Doug Dubitsky wrote in an open letter. “That means when state budgets get tough, the legislature can simply vote to raid the ‘lockbox’ again. Effectively, this allows the legislature to shift money from one pocket to the other as a way to balance a budget without having to actually reduce state spending.”
If the legislature doesn’t get the measure on the ballot in 2016 it makes discussion of finding ways to pay for transportation improvements, much harder in the future.
A panel tasked with finding ways to implement Malloy’s 30-year, $100 billion transportation vision is expected to release recommendations in January.