The possible collapse of an agreement between Connecticut and its state employee unions has created tremendous uncertainty around the state budget. While the state employees’ coalition has postponed any action on contract concessions which would be necessary for Connecticut to balance its budget, Governor Malloy has given no indication that he will back down from moving forward with a “Plan B” budget that could result in thousands of layoffs and spending cuts that are even deeper than were adopted under the initial budget agreement. This can’t bode well for ensuring that Connecticut’s road, bridge and transit infrastructure are maintained in a state of good repair.
Unfortunately, the details of the Governor’s original “Plan B” budget are devastating to transportation in Connecticut; that proposal included rail and bus fare increases, the elimination of the Shore Line East rail service and the Metro-North branch lines, the elimination of Town Aid for Road grants and the elimination of Hartford Express bus service. Thus far, however, no decisions have been made.
[Update: Gov. Malloy's office tells MTR that the Special Transportation Fund would see a reduction of $104 million in 2012 and $120 million in 2013. ConnDOT sees reduction of 817 staff and reduction of $78,339,774 in 2012 and $83,104,251 in 2013. How to reach these targets is up to the commissioner.]
According to a statement from the Governor’s office, “…Gov. Malloy was hopeful that the unions would ratify the agreement, he also had to be prepared if they did not. Last week Gov. Malloy directed his Secretary of OPM (Office of Policy and Management) to begin crafting a proposal that would fill the $1.6 billion deficit our budget now contains, including layoffs and cuts to programs and services. That work remains ongoing and will be finalized in the next day or two. Gov. Malloy is constitutionally obligated to have a balanced budget and that’s what we’ll have.”
As Governor Malloy begins this work, he should remember that investment in transit and transportation infrastructure are routinely found to create the most jobs per dollar expended. In this time of crisis, innovative thinking is needed as a way to ensure that the state can get the greatest bang for its limited buck.
One way to do this is to protect funding for, and ideally invest more robustly in, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Notwithstanding research showing that these investments are needed from a safety perspective, a recent study shows that investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure creates the most jobs per $1 million invested.
Continued support for transit service will also play a key role in ensuring that Connecticut can protect the most vulnerable and that laid off employees have an affordable transportation option to get around the state and look for new jobs.