Sen. Fasano Outlines GOP Transportation Plan: “We have to live within our means”

May 19, 2015

CT Post

The General Assembly’s Republican minority on Monday rolled out a transportation plan which funds less than half the improvements proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The GOP plan relies on selling $33 billion worth of general obligation bonds — and an expectation the federal government will provide another $30 billion — to bring the total to $67 billion over 30 years.

By comparison, Malloy’s proposes to spend $100 billion in state money over 30 years to widen I-95 in Fairfield County and I-84 in the Danbury area, improve Metro-North, build new train stations, bike and pedestrian paths and repair aging roads and bridges.

“We have to live within our means,” Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, told the Governor’s Transportation Finance Panel, which is charged with finding ways to fund Malloy’s vision.

“Tax increases and tolls are not necessary when the governor and the Legislature can simply prioritize transportation using existing resources,” Fasano said.

Devon Puglia, a Malloy spokesman, said the governor is willing to listen to any serious proposals.

“The problem with the GOP plan on transportation is that it’s just not serious,” Puglia said. “Like many of the documents we’ve seen from the Republicans, there’s an issue of basic math – tell everyone how great your plan is while failing to show how to pay for it.”

He said Republicans want to reduce school construction dollars, propose massive cuts to cities and towns, eliminate support for small businesses and slash clean water grants.

“If we want a best-in-class transportation system that will build a stronger economy for decades to come, this is not a serious plan,” Puglia said.

While open to receiving federal money, Malloy has repeatedly said there is little likelihood of additional funding beyond current levels.

Fasano acknowledged the Republican plan relies heavily on “prioritizing” projects, and stressed only so many improvements can be undertaken on I-95 at any given time without shutting down the roadway.

“If you look at I-95, you could only really do one project [at a time],” Fasano said. “If you do two between New Haven and New York you would virtually shut down I-95. There are only so many you can do because of what it ties up.”

“If we believe transportation is a priority, you have to say what is important,” Fasano said. “How do you achieve that? I don’t think you can achieve it with taxes. We suggest this is the way to do it. Does it mean we have to tighten our belt and make choices? Yes it does.”

Committee members listened to the presentation and asked a few questions. But they also noted their charge is to find ways to fund Malloy’s plan, not select projects or reduce it.

“You are aiming at a different number,” Cameron Staples, chairman of the governor’s panel, told Fasano. “We have been tasked to aim at 100 billion.”

Emil Frankel, a former commissioner of the state Department of Transportation and a panel member, added “We are dealing in an environment where federal funds have been stagnant. The best way to look forward is they will remain stagnant.”

“Gov. Malloy’s assumption is flat funding,”‘ Frankel said. “If there is going to be more spending it’s going to have to come from the state.”