Few areas were spared in Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy’s biennial budget (FY 2014 and 2015), including transportation. The budget, which was released Wednesday, recommends:
- a $75 million reduction in the Special Transportation Fund (STF). The governor proposes dedicating more revenue ($310 million) from the state’s petroleum products receipts tax to the STF, as was intended when the tax was created. But his budget would also transfer a larger amount of money ($385 million) from the STF to the general fund
- a 25-cent bus fare increase in 2014 (from $1.25 to $1.50) and a paratransit fare hike. The budget notes that these fare hikes will be used to “reduce subsidy,” as opposed to increasing or improving service
- eliminating dial-a-ride transportation that is not required by the Americans for Disabilities Act
- permanently eliminating the $1.9 million/year Transit Improvement Program, which was designed to pay for infrastructure improvements, like projects that support increased pedestrian and cycling access to transit stations
- bonding $30 million/year in Town Road Aid instead of using pay-as-you-go funding, which will increase interest payments in the long run
In his budget address, Malloy also touted his proposals to send more transportation funding directly to municipalities through a new Local Transportation Capital Program and the Local Bridge Program, while creating an exemption from the automobile property tax (which is based on local property tax rates and funds municipalities) for the first $20,000 of a vehicle’s value. The exemption will reduce revenue coming to the state’s cities and towns by $500 million.
The governor also offered several big proposals that could affect transportation and economic development in the state if done correctly:
- a $1.5 billion plan to expand the University of Connecticut’s main campus in Storrs, as well as a new arts and digital design school in Stamford and a new business campus in Hartford
- a new Department of Housing with responsibility for the state’s affordable housing programs
- a $200 million Bioscience Innovation Fund, aimed at attracting jobs
In order for these programs to be successful they must tie into a smart transit-oriented development strategy, which Governor Malloy has supported in the past and has begun to champion even further. Not doing so would be counterproductive to the administration’s past efforts to locate housing and jobs in places without transit access.