Transportation bill debate continues in Connecticut

| Friday, June 17, 2005

The Connecticut Legislature will return to the state Capitol next week for a special session to hammer out a deal on a transportation improvement plan.

Lawmakers adjourned their regular session earlier this month without reaching agreement on Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s $1.3 billion, 10-year transportation package.

Rell’s proposal includes $667 million to purchase 342 new passenger rail cars in the next decade – an effort to improve service and entice commuters out of their vehicles and off congested highways.

The bill – SB1057 – also includes $300 million for new rail maintenance facilities; $187 million for improvements in congested stretches of Interstate 95; $150 million to help upgrade I-94 and I-84; and $7.5 million for new buses.

In addition, the effort would gradually increase the existing gross earning tax on companies distributing petroleum products.

Those products include gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel, kerosene, benzol, distillate fuels and crude oil.

The plan was praised by Democrats and Republicans alike, but during the final hour of the session the Senate Democratic leaders refused to allow it to come up for a vote.

“They seemingly cared more about brinkmanship than leadership,” Rell told local media.

Senate Minority Leader Lou DeLuca, R-Woodbury, accused Democrats of holding the bill up to get more money for special projects in their districts.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams of Brooklyn denied the accusations. He told WTNH-TV in New Haven there just wasn’t time to negotiate all the bonding issues, noting the bill includes some bonding.

Rell told the Connecticut Post getting this bill passed is her top priority in the special session of the Legislature that begins June 23.

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