Voters tired of seeing transportation funds raided and land deals made under cover of darkness passed two constitutional amendments Tuesday aimed at holding the legislature in check.
The transportation “lockbox” amendment was supported by a broad coalition of construction companies, trades, and business and labor groups who expressed a need for a stable funding source to pay for big-ticket road rebuilding projects in the near future. While gas tax and motor vehicle fines are earmarked for the Special Transportation Fund, the legislature has raided that piggy bank at various times to pay other bills. Question 1 on the ballot asked voters to amend the state Constitution to require those funds to be used exclusively for transportation as long as they are collected.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy applauded the overwhelming passage of the amendment as a recognition by voters that the lack of investment in transportation is handcuffing economic growth.
“The economic cost of traffic congestion in Connecticut is between four to five billion dollars annually, and business leaders rank highway accessibility as their number one factor in deciding where to locate their businesses. We must take steps to support their growth and now residents will have the peace of mind that the revenues dedicated to transportation will actually be spent on transportation,” Malloy said in a news release.
Question 2 concerned the selling, swapping, and conveyance of land or buildings belonging to the state. The practice of doing so without a hearing — often as part of an omnibus bill near the end of the legislative session — attracted heavy criticism after the failed Haddam Land Swap and more recently, with the transfer of the Hartford Regional Market property to the Capitol Region Development Authority. Critics charged that passage of the amendment would hamstring the legislature when it needs to move on various development projects. However, supporters argued that the amendment would allow for transparency and oversight before parkland and open space were sold off to developers.
Connecticut has no form of statewide referendum or ballot initiative outside of a constitutional amendment.