Devlin opposes weak transportation ‘lockbox’ proposal

Laura Devlin.
Laura Devlin.

State Rep. Laura Devlin (R-134) today expressed disappointment she had to oppose a so-called transportation ‘lockbox’ proposal because the proposal really wasn’t much of a lockbox at all.

Devlin, who supported a similar form in the December special session, was hoping the newer version would be a stronger version this legislative session.

Republicans in the General Assembly have for many years called for a proposal to safeguard state transportation funds (STF). In recent years, Governor Malloy and the Democrats in the legislature have raided special transportation dollars meant solely for transportation projects and moved the money into the general budget account, including raiding the STF of $35 million in December 2015 to plug a state budget hole.

During Transportation committee debate Monday, Devlin and other Republican members of the committee proposed an amendment to toughen the proposal by calling for (1) explicitly stating that ‘all’ sources that are required to be credited to the STF shall continue to be credited to the STF and (2) would explicitly ‘prohibit’ the General Assembly from enacting any law allowing such sources to be intercepted, redirected, otherwise allocated away from the STF, (3) finally the amendment would explicitly give any state resident the right to enforce the lockbox by permit them to take the General Assembly to compel the legislature to do its duty.

The amendment failed on a vote of 13-17.

“We are pulling the wool over the eyes of state citizens in promoting this bill. I have said from the very beginning of this debate that I support a transportation lockbox concept if it really accomplishes what it sets out to do - protect our dedicated transportation funds. I voted for the concept in December 2015 for the purposes of moving the dialogue forward and strengthening the existing language. We do the public, and my constituents in Fairfield and Trumbull, a complete disservice by saying we have a lockbox for transportation when in fact the lockbox can be picked,” said Rep. Devlin.

By current law, the Special Transportation Fund pays for state highway and public transportation projects. It is supported by a number of revenue streams, including the motor fuels tax, motor carrier road tax, petroleum products gross earnings tax, certain motor vehicle receipts and fees (e.g., driver's license fees), and surcharges on motor vehicle-related fines and penalties.

For example, Connecticut currently levies a 25-cents-per-gallon retail tax on gasoline, and the entire $511 million it raises currently is spent within the Special Transportation Fund.

The resolution is required to receive support from ¾ of the House of Representatives (114 out of 151 members) to be on the 2016 ballot. If a majority of Connecticut voters in the general election approve the amendment, it will become part of the state constitution.

The ballot designation to be used when the amendment is presented at the general election is: "Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to ensure (1) that all moneys contained in the Special Transportation Fund be used solely for transportation purposes, including the payment of debts of the state incurred for transportation purposes, and (2) that sources of funds deposited in the Special Transportation Fund be deposited in said fund so long as such sources are authorized by statute to be collected or received by the state?"