Posted on November 14, 2019 by Greg MacKinnon
To the Editor,
Recently, Governor Lamont has unveiled a $21 billion transportation plan. This plan relies on Connecticut to levy new taxpayer revenue and enter into low-interest loan agreements. Those loans will be provided by the federal government. In order to collect the annual $320 million to make the governor’s plan possible, he intends to install 14 toll gantries throughout Connecticut’s highways. While I know many of my fellow friends and neighbors living in New Milford do not necessarily take a major highway to work every day, we will be regionally impacted by this plan if tolls are placed on Routes 8 and 84.
Of that newly collected revenue, it is projected over $200 million will come directly from the pockets of Connecticut taxpayers on a yearly basis. I think that is a tough ask at a time when a state budget, which was just approved in June this year, levies $1.7 billion in new fees and taxes over the next two years. That bill is being fully paid by you, and quite frankly adding an extra half billion to that tab within the same timeframe is unreasonable.
It is critical to note that the low-interest loans are still accessible to Connecticut if tolls are not used. Consequently, it is imperative to explore ways in which to get these transportation projects completed without levying new fees, tolls, or taxes.
Are there quality goals within the governor’s transportation plan? Absolutely, which is why I am always open to discussing how we can move Connecticut’s infrastructure forward. It’s no secret that our crumbling bridges and failing roads are holding back businesses and families from investing in our state. However, I would strongly encourage the governor and my friends on the other side of the aisle to take a look at how we have handled existing transportation-related resources.
Earlier this year, the Special Transportation Fund was raided. $171 million of earmarked dollars that were supposed to be placed into that account were intentionally “diverted” away to pay for other projects. In terms of trusting government, this is the type of budgeting policy that drives a wedge between the public and state government operations. Currently, the governor is withholding much-needed Town Aid Road money that was promised to New Milford back in July.
Using taxpayer dollars as political bargaining chips is not a transparent way of conducting business. I would urge that, in order to restore the faith of the public, we start from scratch and take a look at ways in which we can get these priority projects underway. As always, I am willing to work towards a digestible solution, but asking you to put more money into the pot under the guise of blind faith just isn’t a plan I can support right now. It just doesn’t add up.
While I do not mean to trivialize the importance of a state-wide infrastructure plan, I do believe that many residents and issues require more immediate attention. In that light, it’s important to adequately fund critical social services programs – ones that are tailored toward eradicating the horrific disease of addiction and curbing the opioid epidemic.
In 2017, 955 individuals died in Connecticut as a result of opioid-related overdoses. That number continues to rise. While we have made great strides in providing resources and services to those battling addiction, increasing penalties for distributing and dealing fentanyl, and tightening prescriptive regulations – clearly more needs to be done. I am fully committed to continuing my ongoing working with community stakeholders and my fellow legislators to put forth additional legislative proposals in the upcoming session to reverse the upward trend of opioid-related deaths and overdoses.
If you have any questions or concerns about state-related issues, I encourage you to reach out to me.