Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will reintroduce the concept of a constitutional amendment for transportation funds when the regular session starts in February.
Last week during a special session, the House failed to give the concept the three-quarters vote it needed to get on the ballot in November 2016.
The House approved the measure on a bipartisan basis by a 100-40 vote, but it needed to pass the resolution with 114 votes in order to meet the three-quarter threshold for a constitutional amendment. Three Democratic lawmakers voted against it and 26 Republicans voted in favor of it. The Senate approved it unanimously.
“I think the miracle is that I got all but three Democratic votes,” Malloy said last week during an editorial board meeting with CTNewsJunkie.com. “The craziness was that people wanted to argue that perfect was the only way to do this.”
Malloy said he plans to introduce a resolution that’s worded slightly different than one approved last week.
They can’t vote twice on exactly the same proposal if they want to get it on the ballot for 2016, Malloy said.
Malloy opined that he thinks the Republicans who voted against it are already “feeling a lot of heat.” He said the business community is upset that it didn’t pass with enough support to get on the ballot in 2016.
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.”
But Malloy, who plans to make the announcement Tuesday at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce breakfast, said he wanted a lockbox for the half-percent of the sales tax dedicated to funding transportation, and he plans to get a lockbox.
“I wanted it lockboxed — I’ll get it lockboxed,” Malloy said of the half-percent of the sales tax the legislature dedicated to improving Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.
Exactly how the new resolution will be worded is unknown.
House Republicans tried to amend the resolution last week and to allow citizens to challenge the removal of money from the lockbox through the courts. Republicans said that their amendment would provide “the teeth” and help hold the General Assembly accountable.
Meanwhile, the panel Malloy convened to find ways to fund the governor’s $100 billion, 30-year vision for transportation improvements is expected to make its recommendations in January.
Last week one of the members of the panel recommended the General Assembly wait for the panel to make recommendations before pushing forward with a vote during special session.
R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel, president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, wrote this letter last week calling on the General Assembly to postpone the vote.
One of the reasons Griebel gave for postponing the vote was the fact that the panel could recommend increases to existing funding sources, as well as implementation of electronic tolls. Passing a lockbox before those revenues exist could mean they won’t be able to be locked.
“Such increase and new sources will generate both concern and controversy, and the ultimate approval of the Constitutional resolution by both the Senate and the House will be achieved only with the broad support of voters and private sector employees,” Griebel wrote. “Such support mandates an open and comprehensive Legislative process that enables all constituencies to voice their ideas and that thereby provides the basis for voter approval next November.”
It was a concern voiced by lawmakers during debate on the resolution last week. Some, like Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, felt the lockbox was a first step toward implementing tolls. Godfrey opposes tolls, but imagined that lawmakers would argue it’s okay to implement them as long as they can be locked away. Godfrey was one of the three Democratic lawmakers in the House to vote against the resolution.