Gov. Dannel P. Malloy kicked off the first work day of the New Year touting the progress he made on transportation in 2015 and outlining what he plans to do in 2016.
With reporters standing on an old train platform covered in bird and rat droppings at Union Station in Hartford, Malloy rattled off a list of projects that were completed in 2015, including more than one million rides on the CTfastrak busway and the addition of 405 new M-8 rail cars to Metro-North’s New Haven line.
“Our work is far from done,” Malloy said.
Malloy said he will ask the General Assembly to again approve a transportation lockbox so it can be on the ballot in November 2016.
“These issues are too important to ignore,” Malloy said. “The future of our state depends upon it.”
Malloy was unable to get the three-quarters majority he needed during a December special session to get the lockbox onto the ballot. The resolution passed both chambers of the General Assembly, but the House fell 14 votes short of the supermajority it needed.
Meanwhile, a task force is looking at ways to finance Malloy’s 30-year, $100 billion transportation vision. The task force headed by former Rep. Cameron Staples is expected to release its recommendations regarding financing later this month.
Skeptics of the lockbox concept fear new revenue streams created by the General Assembly may somehow get diverted because they won’t be created before the lockbox. Or they worry lawmakers will divert the funds before they get to the special transportation fund, which is supposed to be dedicated toward funding transportation projects.
Last year, Malloy and lawmakers dedicated half a percent of the sales tax to help pay for transportation improvements.
On Monday, Malloy said that half a percent pays for the first eight to 10 years of the $100 billion vision he set forth. But he declined to opine on how he would like to see his task force fund the rest.
“You’re right there are other economic and payment challenges,” Malloy said acknowledging the difficulty of funding $100 billion in transportation improvements.
Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, who attended Monday’s press conference said there’s another way to fund these projects through the “reallocation of nice-to-have bonding.”
Lavielle and Republican lawmakers have proposed reallocating some of the $2.5 billion in borrowing the state does on an annual basis and dedicating it toward transportation.
She said she doesn’t believe residents in her district will vote for a transportation lockbox if the legislature decides to increase gas taxes or implement tolls as a way to pay for all the improvements.
“I don’t think the idea of additional revenue is particularly appealing to people whether you have a lockbox or not,” Lavielle said.
But Malloy disagrees.
He said he thinks residents will support a lockbox, as long as the money goes toward improving transportation.
“People in Connecticut are getting it. They appreciate it. They understand it,” Malloy said.
The governor said he thinks that if residents understand “any dollars raised for transportation will only ever be spent on transportation, then I think they’ll rise to the occasion as well.”