Connecticut Legislature Passes Budget That Boosts Transportation Funding From Sales Tax

AASHTO Journal, 5 June 2015

The Democratic-controlled Connecticut General Assembly narrowly passed a two-year budget – largely along party lines – that dedicates half a percentage point of the state sales tax to major transportation projects, and meets infrastructure funding goals set out by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Gov. Dannel Mallory Gov. Malloy

Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders struck their budget accord May 30, and Malloy said it would put an additional $2.8 billion into transportation investments over the next five years. “This agreement will lead to the largest investment in transportation in Connecticut history,” he said.

In all, he said the state will spend about $10 billion on transportation during that time, counting previously planned state capital spending, federal funds and the impact of the new budget. The state Department of Transportation projected in May what it could accomplish in infrastructure improvements with that level of funding.

On June 1, the governor issued a more detailed statement about the transportation aspects of the accord. He said the budget agreement would “help transform Connecticut’s infrastructure, which is in disrepair due to massive underinvestment.”

Malloy’s office also said the plan will dedicate the transportation funds from the sales tax “to modernizing our rail, rebuilding our roads, and transforming the way we travel. This funding will mean that transportation will be fully funded for nearly a decade, allowing the state to plan and design projects in Governor Malloy’s long-term vision, as well as funding to complete many of them.”

Beyond roadway investments, the program includes completing a planned “Hartford Line” commuter rail route from New Haven, Conn., to Springfield, Mass., and increasing service on the “New Haven Line” with improvements to all branch lines. It also includes new investments in bike and pedestrian improvements throughout the state.

Out of the added $2.8 billion from the budget deal, Malloy said the state would spend $1.77 billion for rail, $613 million for highways, $281 million for bridges, $101 million for bicycle and pedestrian trails, and $43 million for a 25 percent expansion of bus service.

As other details of the budget emerged, though some major corporations strongly objected to business tax increases it would make, and lawmakers reportedly altered a few non-transportation parts of the measure. The final measure still hikes certain business taxes, along with excise fees on cigarettes and income taxes on high-income earners.

The Senate finished voting for the measure late on June 3, about a half-hour before the scheduled adjournment.

The House had passed it hours earlier. Afterward, Speaker Brendan Sharkey said the budget would “grow Connecticut’s economy through investments in Connecticut’s aging transportation infrastructure, including improvements to roads, bridges and rail.”

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