After extensive discussions of transportation funding over the last several years, CBIA's board of directors issued the following statement today.
Transportation has and continues to be a key strategic component of a vibrant, growing economy. Connecticut's economy has been hamstrung by a lack of infrastructure investment over the last several decades leading to an antiquated transportation system that restrains, rather than supports, economic growth.
As such, there is general agreement among board members that user fees, which could include electronic tolling, are an acceptable mechanism to provide funding for critical transportation projects.
However, there is also agreement among board members that the state's chronic short-and long-term fiscal problems—as evidenced by current and projected significant budget deficits—outweigh any of the other factors inhibiting economic and job growth in Connecticut, including infrastructure funding.
These chronic fiscal problems have created a challenging environment for economic growth that is the reality in Connecticut today.
The troubling reality is that Connecticut continues to struggle with population loss and job and economic growth numbers that lag other states in the region and across the nation.
Improving our infrastructure is part of the solution, but there is widespread distrust that transportation funds will go to transportation projects, despite the lock box, because of the state's continued fiscal instability and a history of diverting funds to cover spending levels rather than for economic investments like transportation.
Governor Lamont came into office very much constrained in his ability to reduce the cost of delivery of services due to contractual obligations and other restraints.
His plan to modernize state government and reduce its size and cost through attrition over the next several years is appreciated and supported by the business community, as is his stated desire to deal with the state's fixed costs.
These changes will take time, and until state government exhibits a greater capacity for fiscal discipline it is difficult to support adding additional cost burdens, like tolls, on individuals and businesses.
Our necessary infrastructure upgrades will also take time, so the legislature must begin the debate on how to best fund those upgrades during this legislative session.
At a minimum, the legislature must restore all funds to the Special Transportation Fund that were proposed to be diverted to the General Fund and determine the best funding mechanisms to improve transportation while the hard work to solve our fiscal problems continues.
It is the consensus of the board that at this time of fiscal instability due to high state spending and fixed costs, we cannot support highway tolls as one of those funding mechanisms.
We are hopeful that continued progress on improving the overall climate for growth in Connecticut, and sustained action on our fiscal problems, will lead the board to be able to support alternative funding mechanisms in the near future.
We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature on these issues and on developing a set of tax, spending, and investment policies that will reignite the private sector job growth needed to benefit all Connecticut residents.