State Sen. Toni Boucher: What happened to using transportation fees for transportation needs?
Published 1:48 pm, Monday, June 11, 2012
"We are also making a fundamental change in the way we account for and fund transportation by making sure that all the taxes we collect -- for gasoline and diesel fuel used in transportation -- are used to meet our transportation needs, with 70% of our gross receipts tax going to support our roads and bridges." -- Gov. Dannel Malloy, Feb. 16, 2011, budget speech.
Those words were music to the ears of frustrated motorists throughout Connecticut.
We don't like paying outrageously high gas taxes at the pumps, but the thought that we are providing the state with funds to pave and widen our highways and make our bridges safer makes the sacrifice less distasteful, right?
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Not so fast.
The pledge to use gas tax money for road and bridge improvements has gone unfulfilled.
The administration has raided $70 million in gas tax revenues and diverted it to the general fund to balance the state budget.
The new 4 percent fare increase from our rail commuters is also in danger of being diverted.
It's an accounting gimmick and we will all pay the price for it.
Consider what has taken place in the past 16 months:
Largest tax increase in state history.
Continued spending of over 7 percent.
Borrowing money to pay our state's daily bills.
Jobs and people fleeing our state.
To cover our current deficit, the administration has also diverted $222 million that had previously been set aside to pay back older debt.
State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney remarked, "In effect, it's like needing an $80,000 mortgage, borrowing $90,000, and using $10,000 to pay your first couple of mortgage payments."
During the last 16 months, we have learned that big government and big unions are a priority in Hartford, and these priorities cost big money.
This big appetite needs to be fed to satisfy a growing spending addiction and keep special interests at bay.
A fan of the poet Robert Frost, Gov. Malloy quotes that he has taken Connecticut on "the road less traveled."
This path has also led to a downgrade in our bond rating and an unprecedented retroactive tax hike that did not result in a balanced budget.
Both of these developments could repeat themselves.
So where do we go from here?
The administration must muster the willpower and courage to buck the status quo and stop the spending spree.
With a democratic super majority in the Senate and House, he has the votes to do it.
And he can certainly count on my vote to help him.
Otherwise, designated funds may continue to be swept clean, and money for road and bridge repair will continue to be used for budget balancing.
The risk is more potholes on I-91, unbearable traffic jams on I-84, bridge damage on I-95, standing room only on the New Canaan Branch line, more pain at the pump and the anger of the public.
Hang on tight. As the New York Times proclaimed, Connecticut is on a "liberal joy ride."
State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, represents the 26th District.