Audit transportation dollars before considering tolls
I recently had the privilege of representing residents in eastern Connecticut that were opposed to the construction of the proposed state police gun range immediately adjacent to Pachaug State Forest. I personally thanked Gov. Ned Lamont for keeping his word in opposing this project. In politics, you are only as good as your word. That is why Lamont must also keep his word and not institute tolling on cars in Connecticut.
Leaders in Hartford are missing the mark when it comes to tolling. They always seek to find alternate revenue sources through taxes or fees before first examining priorities, spending habits and internal financial controls. The advocates for tolling are the same people who believe they are entitled to put in for mileage reimbursement when they aren’t even driving their cars to the Capitol. They also think their mileage should be used to pad their pension.
You wouldn’t let some of these people manage your household budget and it is horrifying that they make decisions with billions of dollars of your money. While the Republican minority is fighting the good fight, they need help from we, the people. Before the taxers and the takers institute tolls, the taxpayers of Connecticut have every right to know how current transportation dollars are being spent and, in fact, wasted.
Long ago we were told that instituting a gas tax would solve our transportation problems. We were told that increasing this tax was critical to meeting the demands of our crumbling infrastructure. In the last legislative session, transportation advocates told us not to cap bonding and dedicate an additional half percent of the sales tax to transportation improvements.
Shortly thereafter, then Governor Malloy canceled critical transportation improvements claiming we did not have the capacity to fund these projects. Through this empty rhetoric, nearly four of every five miles of Connecticut’s major roads are either in poor or mediocre condition, with 57 percent rated in poor condition. Every $1 of deferred maintenance represents an additional $4 to $5 in needed future repairs.
Lamont needs to call for a full, forensic audit of the Special Transportation Fund. Connecticut taxpayers have every right to demand a cost benefit analysis of the transportation projects where money has been wasted and not prioritized.
Take a ride on the 9.4-mile bus line from New Britain to Hartford, as I have. Ask yourself if all the empty seats were worth $600 million at a time when critical investments should have been made to Interstate 95 and Interstate 91. This busway costs $25.1 million annually to run, yet only generates $3.2 million in revenue. Connecticut taxpayers are on the hook for $21.9 million to operate this busway.
And why have we invested tens of millions of dollars in a rail line that facilitates economic development and growth into neighboring Massachusetts instead of investing those same funds in Metro North and Shoreline East, which affect our commuters and our local economies every single day? A forensic audit will reveal the long-term operational costs encumbered under former DOT Commissioner James Redeker that compromised the solvency of the Special Transportation Fund. The taxpayers of Connecticut will be appalled to see the millions of dollars wasted.
The more revenue you give the Hartford insiders, the more they will find a way to misappropriate the money. During the campaign, Lamont talked about his time on the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation, crossing party lines and voting with Republicans.
Governor Lamont should call for a full forensic audit of the Special Transportation Fund. Such an audit would expose any waste, fraud or abuse of current transportation dollars. In this way, the governor can hold the Department of Transportation and the General Assembly accountable before placing an additional financial burden on the backs of Connecticut taxpayers.
Timothy M. Herbst is the former first selectman of Trumbull and a 2018 candidate for Connecticut governor. He lost in the Republican primary.
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