Kelly: No tolls in GOP transportation plan
State Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-21) and Connecticut Senate Republicans Thursday released a transportation investment plan they state that does not rely on tolls or new taxes.
Kelly said the proposal, Fiscal Accountability & Sustainable Transportation Reform CT (FASTR CT), shows a path forward to invest in transportation, adopt responsible fiscal policies and establish accountability without asking for more from overburdened taxpayers.
“Today, my Senate Republican colleagues and I released a no-tolls transportation plan,” said Kelly. “We developed FASTR CT to show that there is a better way to invest in transportation and grow jobs without tolls. We all agree that we need to invest in transportation to support Connecticut’s economy and encourage job growth.
“But where I differ from the governor is how to pay for it,” added Kelly. “FASTR CT does not ask for any more from taxpayers. It restores what has been stolen from the transportation plan over the last decade, cuts back on borrowing, reduces debt and leverages federal aid. We can improve our roads, rail and bridges, but we do not need tolls to do it.”
FASTR CT would invest $18 billion in transportation, including roads and rail, between now and 2030, said Kelly, adding that it would leverage federal low-interest loans and create accountability and a vetting process for all transportation projects.
Kelly said FASTR CT would allow for cash financing to be used for transportation projects and would also dramatically cut back on state borrowing, eliminating all state Special Tax Obligation bonds for transportation by 2022, thereby reducing growing debt that is hurting the Special Transportation Fund (STF). FASTR CT stabilizes the Special Transportation Fund, eliminating shortfalls projected in future years and keeping the fund solvent. It would also utilize tax revenue people have already overpaid to the state to invest in unfunded pension liabilities, creating savings that could be used to strengthen the STF, according to the legislators.
They presented the following overview of FASTR CT, which would:
* Include no tolls.
* Include no tax increases or new taxes.
* Eliminate all STO state bonding after 2022. Instead, utilizes federal borrowing programs (RIFF and TIFIA) to obtain a significantly lower interest rate.
* Back federal low-interest loans with a stabilized Special Transportation Fund (STF), not tolls. Federal programs require a dedicated revenue source to back the loans, but it does not have to be a new revenue source.
* Stabilize the STF over the long term, allowing for cash financing to be used for transportation projects. It would eliminate insolvency issues by eliminating STO bonds, reducing new and growing debt, which the governor does not do even within his “debt diet.” Also, it would direct car-related revenue into the STF as approved in the FY2018-19 bipartisan budget, which the governor’s plan also does. This would boost the STF cumulative balance which makes funds available to apply cash payments to transportation projects, similar to the governor’s proposal.
* Dedicate a portion of GO bonding to transportation. It would prioritize $100 million annually for transportation, the same as the governor’s plan. To accomplish this, both plans support reducing bonding for discretionary wants/political handouts and prioritizing transportation needs.
* Reestablish the Transportation Strategy Board (TSB) and establish the CT/N.Y. Railroad Strategy Board (RSB)
* The TSB is a bipartisan group including business leaders, stakeholders and experts tasked with helping DOT identify and prioritize the state’s most urgent transportation needs. All projects must be vetted for input by the TSB before being eligible for funding.
* The RSB would be a new level oversight to vet rail projects. It would include two representatives from N.Y./MTA, two CT Commuter Rail Council representatives, CTDOT Office of Rail, representatives from towns directly affected by rail, and additional members to be discussed.
* Pay down unfunded liabilities resulting in savings that help stabilize the STF.
* Use a portion of excess funds in the BRF to invest into Connecticut’s pension system as allowed under the volatility cap passed in the bipartisan state budget. This would create savings that would allow for a portion of STF fringe costs to be transferred to the general fund, keeping the STF more purely dedicated to transportation project costs. By utilizing tax revenue people have already overpaid to the state, FASTR CT would support workers, reduces unfunded liabilities and strengthens the STF, all while maintaining a historically high Budget Reserve Fund.
Full presentation available at https://ctsenaterepublicans.com/2019/11/a-no-tolls-transportation-plan-for-connecticut-introducing-fastr-ct/.