Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to lock up the state’s transportation funds made it out of committee on a 22-11 vote Monday, but several lawmakers said they want to see the language strengthened before it gets to the House and Senate for a vote.
Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said the more time the General Assembly spends on this issue the more controversial it becomes.
The Senate passed a similar version unanimously in December, but the measure didn’t get the supermajority it needed in the House to get on the November ballot. So Malloy changed the language slightly and proposed it again.
Boucher said people have raised questions about whether this is just a “ruse” to have Connecticut voters accept a new taxing scheme.
Rep. Antonio Guerrera, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee, said he would do everything in his power to make sure the legislation is strong enough to win the necessary support.
For years, lawmakers have raided the special transportation fund when the state’s general fund is experiencing a shortfall.
A constitutional amendment, according to supporters, would help put an end to that practice. However, opponents have pointed out what they describe as a loophole in the legislation — it doesn’t identify the exact revenue streams that would be placed in the lockbox. But they don’t want another constitutional amendment like the spending cap, which was passed in 1992 but never fully implemented by the legislature.
Boucher said the lockbox resolution would receive more support if all sources of revenue that will be going into the fund are identified. Opponents worry that the state is using the lockbox to lure the public into a false sense of security before instituting tolls or some new revenue stream to help pay for transportation improvements.
Boucher was one of three Republicans who voted in favor of the resolution Monday. Eleven of the 14 Republicans on the committee voted against the measure.
“It is disappointing to see opposition from members who claim to be in favor of a lockbox, but will not support this resolution,” Malloy said in a statement. “We cannot have it both ways — we cannot say we must fix our transportation system while also voting against the lockbox.”
Guerrera said the need to fund the improvements is as urgent as it was before the Mianus River Bridge collapsed in 1983.
“We have to do this now,” Guerrera said. “We can’t wait for something bad to happen.”