Well, it’s Groundhog Day, again, and that must mean we’re getting ready for the start of another legislative session in Connecticut. And in this session, like they did in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 sessions (and during a special session this past December), Nutmeg State lawmakers will once again consider a constitutional amendment aimed at protecting transportation revenues.
Governor Dan Malloy renewed his call for a constitutional “lockbox” on transportation funding at a press conference in Meriden on Monday. If the amendment passes both chambers of the state legislature with at least a three-fourths majority, then voters will be asked to decide in November whether Connecticut’s transportation revenues should be used exclusively for transportation purposes.
The Malloy administration also released a three-page fact sheet today which makes the case for the lockbox.
While we have not yet seen the amendment as it will be introduced in the upcoming session, it appears (based on what’s included in the factsheet) that the wording will be adjusted to address concerns expressed by House Republicans after the special session. This amendment, like the one introduced in December, “says that that once funding goes into the Special Transportation Fund, it cannot come out.” The loophole, of course, is that lawmakers could divert funding, such as fuel tax revenue, before it ever makes it to the STF. But what this version of the lockbox amendment essentially requires is the passage of a statute (or statutes) directing specific revenue sources to the STF, not unlike what New Jersey is trying to accomplish with its gas tax.
Now that Connecticut has a blueprint for how to bring its transportation network into the 21st century, it’s up to lawmakers to make sure the funds are there to pay for it. Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker nicely summarized the need in a Hartford Courant op-ed:
We finally have a vision for the future, and with it an opportunity to bring our transportation system into a state of excellent condition so our citizens can travel over sound and safe roads and bridges, have a speedier and more efficient rail system, have an interconnected, modern bus system, markedly advance our bicycle and pedestrian experiences, and sharply cut congestion so it ceases being an anchor on the state’s economy.
But — we need a lockbox to move forward.