Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expressed confidence Monday that he would get the supermajority he needs to send a question about a constitutional lockbox for transportation funds to voters in November.
He said he can’t tie the hands of future legislatures with respect to how they spend money when it comes in, “but we can tie their hands” and say “you can’t get to the money that has been deposited into that account.” That’s what he’s hoping to do with the language he will introduce Wednesday when he unveils his legislative agenda.
Malloy said the legislature would get to decide how any new transportation revenue streams are deposited.
“What I’m saying is every source that we currently have and every source that would be designated in the future should be exclusively for transportation,” Malloy said. “And every dollar collected under those fees, those taxes, those whatever, would be solely for that purpose.”
Republican lawmakers who voted against the lockbox in December expressed concern that the resolution failed to define the source of revenue coming into the lockbox, which could allow for diversions before the money gets to the fund.
Malloy believes the new language he’s drafted will satisfy their concerns.
In December, the House fell short of the 114 votes it needed to to meet the three-quarter threshold for a constitutional amendment. Three Democratic lawmakers voted against it and 26 Republicans voted in favor of it.
Malloy said there were about 10 Democratic lawmakers absent that day, who may have supported a constitutional amendment. Malloy said he has assurances from others, including Republicans who voted against it in the past, that they are ready to vote for it now.
Malloy reminded reporters Monday that Republican lawmakers have long supported a constitutional lockbox.
Republican lawmakers, who held a press conference earlier Monday, said they’ve been pushing for a constitutional lockbox for years.
They also said there’s no question the state needs to investment in its transportation infrastructure. They just disagree on how to get it done.
Republicans have proposed reallocating $39 billion in state bonding to pay for the transportation improvements. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the Republican plan doesn’t raise taxes or call for additional revenue.
“It’s about doing it in a way that we can afford it,” Klarides said.
She said if the governor wants to raise additional revenue to pay for the between $66 billion and $100 billion to pay for the improvements, then he should do it now and not wait until 2018.
Malloy has said he won’t support additional revenue for transportation until a constitutional lockbox is in place.
Sen. Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said if they’re going to study tolls and taxes, then they should study the Republican proposal as well.
Fasano said they presented the plan to the governor’s Transportation Finance Panel, which concluded its work last month, but they never vetted it. He said their mission was to figure out how to spend $100 billion on transportation.
Malloy said the Republican plan isn’t enough money to even maintain the transportation infrastructure the state currently has in place. The governor said residents in Connecticut are already paying a price for the poor conditions of the roads.
“Our highway system is a tax on the people of Connecticut,” Malloy said. “You’re going to be stuck on average 42 hours a year on that highway system due to congestion.”