Connecticut lawmakers fall short of advancing transportation 'lock box'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, December 10, 2015

Voters in Connecticut will not get their say anytime soon on an effort billed to ensure that the state’s transportation money is used for its intended purpose.

During a special session addressing state budget issues, the Senate voted unanimously to endorse adding a proposed constitutional amendment to the November 2016 ballot to protect the state’s transportation revenue from raids via a “lock box.”

House lawmakers also approved the resolution by a 100-40 margin, but 114 votes were necessary to get the question on the presidential ballot. As a result, the Democrat-led General Assembly must bring back the issue for consideration during the upcoming regular session.

A simple majority will be necessary to add the question to the November 2018 ballot. However, if lawmakers meet the three-fourths majority requirement during the 2016 regular session the question could be placed on the upcoming fall ballot.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has advocated for safeguards to budget revenues earmarked for transportation.

Raids of the state’s Special Transportation Fund are not uncommon. Through the years legislatures and governors in the Nutmeg State have tapped road money for other purposes.

The Democratic governor has proposed a 30-year, $100 billion transportation overhaul. Among the funding methods being studied by a special legislative panel are tolls and fuel tax increases.

Malloy has said that voters would support new revenue for infrastructure if they are assured the money would be used for its intended purpose.

Among the concerns about the proposal voiced by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle was the decision to include the issue in a special session when the public could not be a part of the discussion and comment at the statehouse.

Rep. Bill Simanski, R-Granby, added that the resolution does the same thing as a statutory lock box that lawmakers approved during the 2015 regular session.

He wrote in a letter posted on his web site the new law “is ineffective, has no way of being enforced, and is constantly raided to help balance our budget.”

“It is evident that the lock box is just a political gimmick and effectively nothing more than a sieve.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Connecticut, click here.

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