GOV. MALLOY’S REMARKS AT TODAY’S BOND COMMISSION MEETING

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(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today delivered the following remarks at the State Bond Commission meeting regarding his proposed study on the viability and effects of electronic tolling. The following are his remarks as prepared for delivery.

I’d like to begin by making a few comments about the tolling study, which I’m sure will generate discussion at today’s meeting.  While hearing some of the concerns voiced about this study in recent days, I could not help but think of the only other Connecticut governor from my hometown of Stamford, William T. Minor. He was a member of what was known as the “Know-Nothing” movement. Today, I worry that some in modern-day Connecticut are subscribing to their own know-nothing philosophy. They’re choosing to reject new information, to decide proactively to know less, to limit the scope of their options before even fully understanding what those options truly are.

So let’s start with what we know already. The undeniable truth is that our Special Transportation Fund needs a new, reliable revenue source. While Connecticut made important adjustments to the STF in recent years, those fixes only addressed our immediate, short-term concerns.  In order to ensure our bridges don’t collapse or close due to unsafe conditions, and to ensure that our highways remain open and operational, we need to explore additional revenue options.  We need to do it because our existing methods for supporting transportation are going away. The reality is that gas tax is more volatile than ever, and motor vehicle fuel efficiency is improving by the year. The result is a greater reliance on gas taxes, focused on a declining number of people using gasoline powered vehicles. I will remind you that we have not updated our gas taxes in a long time. And a predecessor of mine actually cut that revenue by 14 cents.

We need new options. We need them just so that we can put our infrastructure into a state-of-good-repair, let alone build the kind of dynamic transportation system that our employers demand, and that our residents deserve.  There are major infrastructure projects we need to complete that will cost billions of dollars – including the Hartford Viaduct, the Waterbury Mixmaster, and the much-needed widening of I-95, where the gateway to Connecticut has now become a roadblock.  There are those large projects, but also dozens of smaller projects in every corner of Connecticut. Projects that are rightly supported by Democrats and Republicans across our state. So, the question is, will we explore new revenue sources? Especially one where more than 40% of the revenue could be generated by out-of-state drivers and out-of-state trucks?

The item on today’s agenda is not a vote for tolls. Let me say that again – the item on today’s agenda will not enact tolls in Connecticut. That can only be done through an act of the legislature.  What it will do is study our options. It will give the legislature more information of what tolls would look like, what kind of revenue they would raise, and what the impact would be on our roads and our environment.  Even deeply red states understand that the gas tax is an unreliable revenue source, and that transportation infrastructure is necessary to grow jobs. The State of Indiana recently did their own tolling feasibility study. It was approved by a Republican legislature and a Republican governor. 

That study cost Indiana about 10 million dollars. And it eventually showed that Indiana could raise between 30 and 50 billion dollars in revenue over a thirty year period. That’s billion with a B.   That’s what other states are doing. They’re growing. They’re building. And they are doing it while many in Connecticut would argue we should do nothing. That we should know-nothing.

I’ve heard the concerns about the cost of this study, and I’m sure that will be part of today’s discussion. Let’s put the cost in context.  First, as Commissioner Redeker can attest, the RFP to find a vendor to do this study will take at least nine months. That means none of this money will be expended until at least the spring of next year. A new Governor and a new legislature will be in session and can do whatever they please if they disagree with this action, before one dollar is spent. But we need to allocate the funding now if we want qualified vendors to actually reply to an RFP.  

Second, it’s true that $10 million is a lot of money. But we Connecticut spends money regularly on other transportation studies, and for good reason.  We’ve studied parking garages in Stamford and New Haven. We’ve studied train stations in Enfield, and West Hartford, and Orange. We’ve studied the widening of I-95 and I-84, and improvements to I-91. These studies have been done with bipartisan support. Are we saying that we can spend money studying all those transportation projects, and yet we can’t spend money to understand how we’re going to actually fund these same projects over the next thirty years?

And of course, we also bond for things that aren’t studies, which are far less critical than the future of our transportation infrastructure, and which Republicans and Democrats support. Here’s one example. Today’s agenda contains $1.5 million for the Shoreline Trolley Museum in East Haven. This is bonding that Senator Fasano has actively supported and requested. It comes in addition to $1 million in bonding the same museum received in 2012 – at which time Senator Fasano issued a press release applauding the funding.  Now I agree with Len, this is a good project. But that’s $2.5 million – 25 percent of what we are spending on this toll study – for a trolley museum. That’s a museum celebrating our transportation past. You’re telling me we can’t spend a little more to study our transportation future? Of course we can. Of course we can learn more. We do it all the time.

Here’s another example. In 2013, Connecticut bonded $11 million dollars to rehabilitate a bridge in Derby over the Naugatuck River, in Representative Klarides’ district.  That’s $11 million dollars spent on fixing just one single bridge, in one single town. And it had Republican and Democrat support. And yet, we can’t spend a million dollars less than that to study how we will pay for projects in towns and cities across Connecticut for generations to come? Of course we can. 

As we discuss this topic today, I’d like everyone to consider this question: Who here thinks the status quo is working when it comes to transportation? Who thinks our current way of approaching transportation is working for our residents and our employers? Who thinks we can continue to allow our neighbors – the states with whom we compete for jobs and talent – to pull far ahead of us when it comes to investments in our roads, bridges, tunnels, and rails. So why would we prevent ourselves from having the necessary information?

Let’s not be know-nothings. Let’s not fall back on those bad practices of doing less, of knowing less. Let’s not sputter and stall while other states speed ahead. I urge you all to support this commonsense study.

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