HARTFORD — Senate Republicans unveiled their alternative to the Governor’s transportation improvement plan. Dubbed "FASTR CT," it doesn’t include tolls or taxes, but does expose the state to more risk in the event of a crisis.
Senate Republicans said they’ve been working on this plan for about three weeks and last night, pitched it to the Governor Chief of Staff who brought it to the Governor. They say all the numbers have been vetted through the non-partisan office of fiscal analysis.
Gov. Lamont has said he’s open to a no tolls alternative to fund transportation.
“Give me a good constructive alternative where the numbers add up,” Lamont said.
On this day, Senate Republicans gave him that. "Fastr CT" follows the Governors CT 2030 model, but lays out a new way to fund it. No new taxes and no tolls.
State Sen. Len Fasano said, “We just can’t do it. It’s a trust in government thing where we know they are never going to go away.”
The plan still leverages the low-interest federal loans proposed under the Governor’s plan. But instead of tolls as the revenue stream to pay it back, it proposes using tax surplus money from the rainy day fund to pay down unfunded pension liabilities and eliminate high interest transportation bonding. Republicans say that would generate $2-billion in cash to stabilize the Special Transportation Fund.
“Which means the STF is relieved of that debt service,” said Fasano.
Governor Ned Lamont released a statement in response to the Republican rollout that read, in part, “Growing Connecticut’s economy is my top priority. Every dollar we invest in our infrastructure is a dollar we invest in our future. I am not surprised Senator Fasano also recognizes the critical importance of those investments. The state’s largest employers agree that these investments can transform Connecticut.”
“While I appreciate Senator Fasano’s proposal to partially fund much-needed infrastructure investments, taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund is a risky proposition that requires serious evaluation,” said Gov. Lamont.
Democratic State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney said in a statement, “We agree that our Rainy Day Fund is currently at a historically high level and that the bipartisan budget passed in 2017 established policies to promote future fiscal stability.”
But others may call the plan hypocritical. Republicans, who often campaign on a platform of lower taxes are proposing to spend the surplus taxes have created.
“What we’re saying is, you overtaxed is to death,” said Fasano.
But that’s what’s giving their plan life. And in the past, Senator Fasano has criticized dipping into the rainy day fund.
“We are not doing a one time budget hole. We are paying down unliabilities giving us more flexibility. That’s the difference,” he said.
The FASTR CT plan re-establishes the Transportation Strategy Board to prioritize roads, bridge, air travel and port improvements and creates a Rail Strategy Board to separately handle trains.
“We need that feedback. And this is how you get accountability which is lacking at DOT right now,” said Fasano.
Republicans say the state would still be well positioned to handle a recession with 1.2-billion left in the rainy day fund and getting it back to 2.5 billion by 2024.
“We built in a cushion in our budget in case we have some sort of recession. In addition to that, now we have a spending cap, a volatility cap a revenue cap a binding cap. All of that was put in so we would not overextend ourselves,” said Fasano.
The Republican plan makes a nearly 18-billion total investment in transportation over 10 years as opposed to the Governor’s 21-billion.