Barely a week after Gov. Malloy’s budget address in which he outlined a 30-year vision for transforming transportation in Connecticut, the legislature’s Transportation Committee held a public hearing on a key component of the plan.
The committee heard more than 20 proposals to protect the state’s Special Transportation Fund.
At the hearing, it seemed everyone was getting on board to protect the fund. Many of the measures came from Republicans in both the House and Senate; the Governor and the Transportation Committee each had their own proposals; and in one case, a GOP and Democratic representative combined efforts.
The vast majority of the proposals called for a change in the state’s constitution to limit the use of the transportation fund for anything other than transportation- related purposes.
A few called for changes in statute to forbid the deposit, transfer or payment of funds from the Special Transportation Fund into any other fund.
One of the proposals, SB 937, raised by the Transportation Committee itself, forbade any unauthorized transfers unless “the Governor declares and emergency or the existence of extraordinary circumstances, and at least three-fifths of the members of each house of the General Assembly votes to approve such deposit.”
In other words, it continues to permit Special Transportation Funds to be funneled to non-transportation purposes if the state hits hard times.
Of course, that’s how we got into our transportation dilemma in the first place.
In a 2013 survey, 74% of Connecticut businesses supported a constitutional measure to help protect the special transportation fund from being used for non-transportation expenditures.
CBIA supports creating constitutional protections to our Special Transportation Fund because our transportation needs are great, and our ability to pay for our transportation infrastructure has diminished over time.
The first step to avoiding past mistakes of raiding the fund is to protect what funding we have left. The easiest way to do that is simple self-restraint on the part of policymakers to keep the state budget within taxpayers’ ability to afford it.
Since we haven’t been very successful at that, creating a constitutional amendment to force us to be wiser with our Special Transportation Funds seems like the next best idea.