Sen. Hwang Supports the Senate Republican Transportation Plan

November 14, 2019

HARTFORD – Today, Connecticut Senate Republicans released a transportation investment plan that does not rely on tolls or new taxes. The proposal, Fiscal Accountability & Sustainable Transportation Reform CT (FASTR CT), shows a path forward to invest in transportation, adopt responsible fiscal policies and establish accountability without asking for more from overburdened taxpayers.

“We all agree that Connecticut needs to improve our transportation system. A reliable and modern transportation system is a key to a healthy economy and job growth. But Senate Republicans disagree that tolls need to be part of the solution,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “We recognize the hard work that Governor Lamont has put into his CT2030 plan, but we do not support tolls, which is why we worked to offer this no-tolls alternative. We developed FASTR CT to show that there is another way to invest in transportation and grow jobs in a manner that is sustainable and accountable to taxpayers – all without tolls.

“Republicans and Democrats all agree that our Transportation infrastructure improvements are critical to job and business growth and integral to maintaining a high quality of life in our communities. This proposal solves a funding mechanism challenge without tolls/taxes while reducing our long-term pension liabilities. Equally important, this transparent use of existing funds will work toward restoring trust in state government. We need to respect and properly prioritize our budgetary spending moving forward,” said Deputy Senate Republican Leader Tony Hwang (28th District), Transportation Committee Member.

FASTR CT invests $18 billion in transportation, including roads and rail, between now and 2030. It leverages federal low interest loans and creates accountability and a vetting process for all transportation projects. FASTR CT allows for cash financing to be used for transportation projects and also dramatically cuts back on state borrowing, eliminating all state Special Tax Obligation bonds for transportation by 2022, thereby reducing growing debt that is hurting the Special Transportation Fund (STF). FASTR CT stabilizes the Special Transportation Fund, eliminating shortfalls projected in future years and keeping the fund solvent. It also utilizes tax revenue people have already overpaid to the state to invest in unfunded pension liabilities, creating savings that can be used to strengthen the STF.

Overview of FASTR CT:

  • Includes NO tolls.
  • Includes NO tax increases or new taxes.
  • Eliminates all STO state bonding after 2022. Instead, utilizes federal borrowing programs (RIFF and TIFIA) to obtain a significantly lower interest rate.
  • Backs federal low interest loans with a stabilized Special Transportation Fund (STF), NOT tolls. Federal programs require a dedicated revenue source to back the loans, but it does NOT have to be a NEW revenue source.
  • Stabilizes the STF over the long term, allowing for cash financing to be used for transportation projects. Eliminates insolvency issues by eliminating STO bonds, reducing new and growing debt, which the governor does not do even within his “debt diet.” Also directs car related revenue into the STF as approved in the FY2018/2019 bipartisan budget, which the governor also does. This boosts the STF cumulative balance which makes funds available to apply cash payments to transportation projects, similar to the governor’s proposal.
  • Dedicates a portion of GO bonding to transportation. Prioritizes $100 million annually for transportation, the same as the governor’s plan. To accomplish this, both plans support reducing bonding for discretionary wants/political handouts & prioritizing transportation needs.
  • Reestablishes the Transportation Strategy Board (TSB)  & establishes the CT/NY Railroad Strategy Board (RSB)
    • The TSB is a bipartisan group including business leaders, stakeholders and experts tasked with helping DOT identify and prioritize the state’s most urgent transportation needs. All projects must be vetted for input by the TSB before being eligible for funding.
    • The RSB would be a new level oversight to vet rail projects. It would include two representatives from NY/MTA, two CT Commuter Rail Council representatives, CTDOT Office of Rail, representatives from towns directly affected by rail, and additional members to be discussed.
  • Pays down unfunded liabilities resulting in savings that help stabilize the STF.

Uses a portion of excess funds in the BRF to invest into Connecticut’s pension system as allowed under the volatility cap passed in the bipartisan state budget. This creates savings that allows for a portion of STF fringe costs to be transferred to the General Fund, keeping the STF more purely dedicated to transportation project costs. By utilizing tax revenue people have already overpaid to the state, FASTR CT supports workers, reduces unfunded liabilities and strengthens the STF, all while maintaining a historically high Budget Reserve Fund.

Full presentation available at ctsenaterepublicans.com.