Malloy Toll Proposal Ignores Viable Solutions

August 3, 2018

After years of diverting more than $137 million from the Special Transportation Fund (STF), the Malloy administration announced earlier this year that the fund would become insolvent by July 1, 2018.

At the time, Governor Malloy offered tolls, increased taxes, and a fee on tire purchases as the only solution to continue funding the state’s transportation needs. He followed that up with proposals to increase fares and reduce train and bus services on the Connecticut shoreline.

Democrats in the General Assembly put out a number of legislative proposals for tolls and toll studies during the 2018 session. This generated a groundswell of opposition from the overtaxed residents and commuters of Connecticut. The issue of tolls because so toxic that none of the proposals was called for a vote in the House or Senate chambers.

Instead, the legislature passed a bipartisan budget agreement that implements parts of the Republican Prioritize Progress Plan. It shores up the STF without tax increases or tolls.

Unsatisfied with our solution to the STF problem, and with only a few months left to his term, Governor Malloy ordered $10 million to be put on the state’s credit card to study tolls.

Democrat members of the State Bond Commission approved borrowing millions of dollars to study something that has been studied. They are adding to the state’s debt to create a study that may not even be used at all by the next administration.

As a fiscal conservative, I am concerned about this misuse of taxpayer dollars. I also am concerned that some people still buy in to the misconception that tolls are the only solution to rebuild our infrastructure. They believe the falsehood that tolls are the only way to make Connecticut more economically competitive.

The reality is that Prioritize Progress, which I mentioned earlier, is a viable solution to the state’s transportation shortfalls. It involves no tax increase, no tolls, and it would generate more than $70 billion for transportation over 30 years.

The Prioritize Progress funding plan Connecticut Republicans developed looks at how we can use current state resources to dedicate more funding to priority transportation needs. It’s already proving effective to address the state’s short-term transportation needs, and if we implement this plan fully, it also will solve our state’s long-term future.

When fully implemented, the plan operates within the state’s new bond cap, so it borrows no more than allowed each year. It protects bonding for core needs, such as school construction and clean water, while reducing bonding for excessive wants. It stops bonding for pet projects and political handouts to redirect investments toward transportation.

As a result, Prioritize Progress would allow Connecticut to boost state funding for transportation by hundreds of millions of dollars each year. This exceeds money Rhode Island’s new trucks-only tolls are estimated to generate and is significantly more than the state has ever directed toward transportation before. When you pair new state investment with current state funding for transportation and estimated federal funding, the result is more than $2 billion annually to fund transportation throughout Connecticut.

Prioritize Progress is a real solution. The portion that is included in the recent bipartisan budget will increase state transportation funding to $1 billion annually over the next two years – more than ever before.  There is nary a toll or tax increase included in the plan.

Unfortunately, Governor Malloy and state Democrats continue to set their sights on tolls, and their blinders are up. What they need to do is step out of the shadow cast by the tolls debate and open their eyes to the solutions right before us.

We can make transportation a priority, and we don’t have to pickpocket taxpayers to make it happen.

See the link to Republican’s Prioritize Progress Long-Term Transportation Infrastructure Plan below.

State Senator Michael McLachlan represents the 24th Senatorial District, which includes the communities of Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, and Sherman.