Text as prepared for delivery.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Lt. Governor Wyman and my fellow state officials, ladies and gentlemen of the General Assembly, honored members of the Judiciary, members of the clergy, and all the citizens of our great state: thank you for the honor of inviting me once again into the people’s House.
Let me offer my sincere congratulations to those of you taking on new and important roles, specifically Senate President Marty Looney, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides.
Congratulations as well to the freshman members of the General Assembly who were sworn in earlier today. I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.
As always, let us thank Connecticut’s brave men and women serving our nation.
Thank you also to the best Lt. Governor in the United States of America, Nancy Wyman.
And finally thank you to my wife Cathy and our three boys for their love and support.
Four years ago, I joined you in this chamber for the first time as Governor. I spoke about how Connecticut has always been a leader.
About how, for generations, we shaped and changed our nation and indeed the world.
Connecticut drafted North America’s first written constitution. We founded our nation’s first insurance company. Our inventors gave the world the can opener, the bicycle, and the artificial heart.
Connecticut has always been a birthplace of innovation. And over the past four years, we’ve continued to lead – and lead nationally – on some of the biggest issues of our time.
We increased the minimum wage – the first in the nation to commit to ten dollars and ten cents per hour.
We passed paid sick leave – the first in America to do it.
Working with Democrats and Republicans, we created the strongest, smartest gun violence prevention laws in the nation. Today crime in Connecticut is at a 40 year low.
Thanks to Nancy Wyman, we cut the number of uninsured Connecticut citizens in half and became a national model for a new kind of health care system.
We’ve built better schools, raised test scores, made college more affordable, and put Connecticut on a path toward universal pre-kindergarten.
We added more than 500 million dollars to our rainy day fund and responsibly cut our long term debt by 12 billion dollars.
And finally, because of the decisions we made together over the last four years, our economy is gaining traction. Together we’ve helped private employers create more than 75,000 new jobs.
None of these things would have happened if we avoided tough decisions or failed to face our problems. We have led Connecticut down a stronger path because we didn’t take the easy way out.
Where to go?
The question now before us: “What’s next?”
How do we honor our remarkable history and tradition? How do we fulfill our promise for a brighter tomorrow? How do we decide what kind of Connecticut we’re going to leave to our children?
We do it with courage. By having the tough-but-necessary debates about our long-term prosperity.
We do it by pushing ahead, even if it isn’t easy… especially when it isn’t easy.
We do it by building a Connecticut that is prepared not just for the next fiscal year, but for the next half-century.
In that spirit, I want to talk to you today about one of the largest challenges we face – something that has held us back for decades and that, left unfixed, would hamper our economy for decades to come.
I want to talk about how, for two generations, Connecticut fell short on transportation.
We know that transportation and economic growth are bound together. States that make long-term investments in their infrastructure can have vibrant economies for generations. States that don’t, will struggle. It’s that simple.
Transportation connects us – literally – community to community, state to state, nation to nation. It connects us to economic opportunity, and it connects us to one another.
‘Unacceptable…need a new approach’
First, here’s the good news: thanks to the efforts of so many here in this chamber, we’ve increased support for transportation – dramatically.
Funding is up 65 percent during the past four years. During this period, we’ve sent more General Fund revenue to the Special Transportation Fund than ever before – nearly 1.2 billion dollars.
We’ve made sure more of the gross petroleum receipts tax goes directly toward supporting transportation.
We’ve taken action on long-overdue projects like widening I-84 in Waterbury, replacing the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, and adding new tracks and signal systems between New Haven and Hartford.
All told, we’ve invested more in transportation than any time dating back to Governor O’Neill. It’s more progress than Connecticut has made in decades.
But here’s the problem: it’s still not enough. We have so much more to do.
We have more to do because traffic congestion still costs the average person an extra 42 hours away from your family each year.
And for our economy, it’s the equivalent of 97 million dollars in lost time and wasted fuel, each and every day.
All told roads and bridges that are either deficient or overly-congested cost Connecticut drivers a total of 4.2 billion dollars annually.
It’s harming us and the health of our children with additional air pollution and smog.
Simply put, our investments have not kept pace with our needs, and our residents and businesses are paying the price.
It’s unacceptable. We need a new approach.
‘These are lofty goals’
To be competitive regionally, nationally, and internationally, we need a transformation. For our roads, bridges, rails, and ports – even our walkways and our bikeways.
We need to change the ways we commute, the ways our businesses move their products, and the ways we get around our cities and towns. It’s time for Connecticut to establish a collective vision for the next thirty years. A vision for a best-in-class transportation system.
We can have an open and honest discussion of what needs to happen to transform our infrastructure to meet the challenges and demands of the 21st Century.
We can do it this year. In this session.
To make us more business friendly, to attract new companies and more jobs, to improve our quality of life, and make our state an even better place to raise a family.
We can change Connecticut, so that thirty years from now, here is what we will leave to our children:
A state with the safest highways, railways, buses, bicycle and pedestrian systems in New England;
A state where people can move back and forth to their jobs in a reasonable and predictable amount of time, so they can spend less time in traffic and more time with their family;
A state where we attract new businesses because our highways and rail networks can deliver goods efficiently, without delay;
A state where our children want to stay and raise new generations because they have a choice to live and work with a car… or without one;
A state with three vibrant, deep-water ports exporting more and more goods made right here in Connecticut;
A state with an international airport that serves as a hub for transportation across America and around the globe;
A state whose bus and rail systems interconnect all of Connecticut, linking us to cities up and down the east coast;
A state that is crisscrossed by bicycle and pedestrian trails that make our communities more sustainable, our towns more walkable, and our cities more livable.
These are lofty goals. They might seem unattainable to some. They’ll say it can’t be done. That it’s not even worth trying. They’ll say we can’t do it while also working to balance our budget.
I say we can’t afford not to do it. Together, we should refuse to give in to the cynics and the naysayers. This is the Connecticut we must strive for.
Over the coming weeks I will begin a dialogue on how best to face these challenges head on.
I will come back to you next month with more details, but in the meantime I want to offer two ideas as a good place to start.
First, we should ensure that our efforts are comprehensive in their size, their scope, and their geography.
That means widening I-95 statewide and fixing its entrance and exit ramps.
It means building new rail stations and upgrading our branch lines to provide real commuter rail service, including the Naugatuck Valley.
It means creating a statewide, 21st Century bus service with real-time updates commuters can check on their cell phones.
The bottom line is that we need to improve transportation of all kinds, in towns of all sizes, across all of our state.
Second, we must make sure every penny we raise for transportation goes toward our vision to transform Connecticut.
Today, I am proposing that Connecticut create a secure transportation lock box that will ensure every single dollar raised for transportation is spent on transportation, now and into the future.
No gimmicks. No diversions.
And we should include a covenant with bond holders and all people of Connecticut to ensure that money set aside for transportation projects is only used for that purpose.
Send me a bill that accomplishes these goals and I will sign it immediately.
Until that legislation is passed and signed, I will veto any attempt to levy additional sources of new revenue for transportation.
We also know that an honest conversation about our transportation future must include a dialogue on how we pay for new projects. While traffic congestion is getting worse, more efficient cars mean that our gas taxes will soon fail to cover current investments, let alone the new ones we need to make.
The budget I present to you next month will include first steps toward funding a long-term transportation vision. But subsequent steps will need to be taken in the years beyond that.
That’s why we must tie our hands and the hands of future generations. It’s why we must be specific about which current or future revenues will be set aside.
Let’s start this conversation with a real, working lock box.
‘A down payment’
My friends, we’ve accomplished many big things together over the past four years. But ultimately, the success of our economy over the next ten, twenty and even thirty years will be determined by one thing: our transportation infrastructure.
We need only look to Connecticut’s own history to know this is true. After all, transportation is why we’ve led since our founding.
From the Native American trails that helped a young colony develop and thrive;
To our seaports that brought commerce from across the globe and made our state a maritime hub;
To the turnpikes and parkways that allowed our state to develop into an industrial power;
To the railroads that connected each city and town across Connecticut to one another, and to Boston, New York, and beyond.
Today, we can open a new chapter in our state’s proud history, one where we begin rebuilding Connecticut, both figuratively and literally.
Let it be a chapter of smart investment and long-term thinking.
Let it be a down payment on the kind of state we want to leave to future generations.
Let it be a promise that Connecticut’s 88th Governor and the 2015 General Assembly were planning ahead.
Planning for our children and our children’s children. So that it was their interests that came first in our minds, and first in our hearts.
Thank you, may God bless you, and may God bless the great State of Connecticut.