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Focus on getting federal dollars, not TCI

The goals of Connecticut participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative are laudable, but the timing and approach should give the state legislature pause about taking up the measure in a special session.

TCI is intended to be a multistate initiative with the aim of lowering transportation emissions, which contribute to climate change. Emission goals and caps would be set and transportation strategy aimed at meeting them — improved and cleaner mass transit options, encouraging greater electric vehicle use, improving broadband service and access to increase telecommuting, for example.

In Connecticut the cost of gas would go up by about 5 cents per gallon to pay for it and as another incentive to use less gas.

But the multi-state aspect is not very multi. As of now it consists of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. Larger states to the west, that produce far greater emissions that are then carried by prevailing winds to southern New England, are not taking part.

In Washington a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, the result of a rare bipartisan deal, sits in Congress. Its approval — and the delay is maddening — would send billions of dollars for infrastructure improvements to Connecticut. There are serious questions whether the Department of Transportation has the sufficient staffing to utilize that funding in a timely fashion, never mind layering the TCI program atop those federal dollars.

Granted, every small step taken towards lowering emissions and so the rate of climate change is important. But being realistic, Massachusetts, R.I., D.C. and Connecticut, if it joins, are not going to move the needle. A national initiative is what is necessary, tied to a serious global effort.

A 5-cent-per-gallon hike in the cost of gas — it is now about $3.18 per gallon — may seem like a small thing, but to those struggling financially, and to small businesses heavily dependent on gas use, it can be significant. Schemes could be developed to provide some sort of tax rebate to those on the lower-income scale, but that adds more moving parts to addressing a problem better handled at a federal scale.

Of course, Connecticut needs an investment in transportation infrastructure that goes beyond reducing emissions. But the sensible way to raise those revenues, the only way that will capture dollars from cars and trucks passing through our state on I-95 and other highways, is to impose tolls. Yes, we know Gov. Ned Lamont got burned politically in his first year when he tried to get tolls adopted and failed, but this editorial board remains convinced it is the fairest way to assure a steady revenue stream for transportation. It could be combined with a cut in the gas tax.

We take the threat posed by climate change seriously. Extreme weather events are occurring with greater frequency. The implications globally are dire if the international will cannot be found to dial back on greenhouse gases.

But that does not mean every climate-friendly proposal should be blindly adopted without a clear-eyed evaluation whether it makes sense. TCI does not make sense at this time. The focus should be on getting Connecticut's congressional and Senate delegations — all members of the controlling Democratic Party — to get the infrastructure legislation approved in Washington.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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