Democrats’ obsession with tolls ignores viable alternatives

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, on his way out of office, has ordered that $10 million be placed on the state’s credit card to study tolls. With the approval of Democratic lawmakers, he’s borrowing millions of dollars and is adding to our debt in order to study something that has been studied before. It would produce a study that may not even be used by the next administration.

As co-chair of the state’s Transportation Committee, I have many serious concerns about this misuse of taxpayer dollars. What has struck me about the conversation surrounding Malloy’s expensive and wasteful study is that some people still buy in to the misconception that tolls are the only solution to rebuild our infrastructure to make Connecticut more economically competitive. This is simply untrue.

The reality is that another viable solution to the state’s transportation shortfalls exists. It involves no tax increases and no tolls and it would generate over $70 billion for transportation over 30 years. This solution is called “Prioritize Progress.” It is a transportation funding plan Connecticut Republicans developed as a way to reprioritize how we utilize current state resources to dedicate more funding to transportation needs. It’s already proving effective to address the state’s short-term transportation needs. If fully implemented, it would provide a long-term solution for our state’s transportation problem. 

Here’s how the plan works. First, it operates within the state’s new bond cap, so it borrows no more than allowed under the cap. Second, it protects bonding for core needs such as school construction and clean water, at the same time it reduces bonding for excessive wants. And third, instead of using bonding for pet projects and political handouts, it redirects those investments toward transportation needs.

The result? Annually, Prioritize Progress would allow Connecticut to boost state funding for transportation by hundreds of millions of dollars. This is far more funding than Rhode Island’s new trucks-only tolls are estimated to generate and significantly more than the state has ever directed toward transportation. Pair the new state investment with current state funding for transportation and with estimated federal funding, and the result is over $2 billion annually in funding for transportation throughout Connecticut.

Prioritize Progress is a real solution. In fact, a portion of this plan was included in the most recent bipartisan budget and as a result the state was able to increase transportation funding to $1 billion annually over the next two years – more than ever before. We did this all without a single toll or tax increase.

Unfortunately, instead of having a conversation about rolling out this plan into future years as it was designed, the governor and legislative Democrats continue to set their sights on tolls, and their blinders are up.

Connecticut Democrats need to step out of the shadow cast by the tolls debate, and open their eyes to the solutions that are right before us. We can make transportation a priority, and we don’t have to pickpocket taxpayers to make it happen.

Senator Toni Boucher is the Republican co-chair of the Transportation Committee. She represents Connecticut’s 26th Senatorial District that includes Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

 

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