Nobody trusts Hartford.  If cynicism is a disease, we’re in the midst of an epidemic.

Since last fall I’ve been touring the state speaking to groups large and small about Connecticut’s transportation crisis… about the $5 billion we need to just get Metro-North back in a state of good repair… about the hundreds of deficient bridges and potholed highways … and about the futility of depending mostly on the gasoline tax to fund long-needed repairs.

And when I got to the part in my talk pitching what I see as the necessity of tolls, safeguarded in the recently approved Special Transportation (STF) Lockbox, most audiences turned on me.  While there were a few true-believers who trust in the state’s role in keeping our transportation in a state of good repair, the vast majority in my audiences don’t believe that the STF is truly locked.

Jim Cameron

“There’s no way that toll money won’t be misused.  It’s just another taxing mechanism. You’re nuts if you trust those idiots,” was the gist of their comments.  And maybe they’re right.

Gov. Ned Lamont flip-flopped on his campaign promise to only toll trucks.  Then he was brazen enough (in front of reporters!) to tell the Democrats’ caucus that he would help raise them campaign money if they’d support tolling.

He even tried to win over Greenwich Republican representatives by suggesting he wouldn’t toll the Merritt Parkway if they’d give him their votes for tolls… without really considering what that would do to parkway traffic diverting off of I-95 to avoid tolls.

He also manufactured a funding crisis for the STF by halving earlier plans to place the car sales tax in that fund.

Meanwhile, the anti-toll forces filled the news vacuum winning wide popular support, gathering 100,000 petition signatures in opposition to tolling.  For that grassroots effort they deserve credit just as the policy amateurs in the governor’s office deserve scorn.

Tolling will be debated in a special session of the legislature in the coming weeks, but even the Democratic majority admits it only has a “50-50 chance” of passage. Still, in the race to adjournment June 6, lawmakers did somehow find time to pass some crazy bills.

…Like the one approving a study of burying I-95 in a tunnel from Greenwich to Bridgeport.  Never mind that we don’t have money to fix our bridges. Now lawmakers want to waste money on an impossible, multi-billion dollar “big dig” along the Gold Coast?

They also had time to stuff the budget full of hard-to-find special-funding “rats,” like $60,000 for the New London Little League or $37,000 for a New Haven Scout troop. They couldn’t find time to vote on healthcare, online gaming or marijuana, but succeeded in stuffing pork in every crack and crevice of the sure-to-pass budget.

One issue that did survive was SB 876 which would invest $10 million in bonding to improve the state’s rail freight system… the eight small freight railroads left in our state operating on infrastructure up to 100 years old.  That bill should be passed.  But $10 million?  That’s chump-change, a rounding error in most CDOT projects.

The post-election glow of optimism about a new governor with a vision for the future is gone, replaced by the reality of an inept, dysfunctional legislature that just doesn’t care.

The skeptics are right and I, too, have succumbed to the epidemic of cynicism.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media. Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien Representative Town Meeting.

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Jim Cameron | Columnist

Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group and advocates for Connecticut rail riders. He writes a weekly column called "Talking Transportation" for CT Mirror and other publications in the state. Read past Talking Transportation columns here. Contact Jim at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com.

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6 Comments

  1. I agree. I would be for tolls if the plan was different. Ned just went for it all in one shot after lying to us about how he would handle it. All highways as well. What should be done is something closer to what Kevin Rennie wrote in the courant last week. That would be good compromise to start. As you can see from your tour. NO ONE trust our gov’t. Why should we. Last year we the people approved the lock box. Just this past secession the GA with Ned approval just took 160 to 170 million from the STF and moved it to the general fund. It didn’t even take 1 year to show us how they lie. Also not sure if it happened but again the GA was looking to raid the passport to the parks program only 2 years into it. I’m sure too some older and more experienced CT folks can provide other examples of CT gov’t abuse.

  2. Hallelujah! Mr Cameron, I’m ecstatic you finally see the light. I ask you please champion and promote logical, constructive.unbiased transportation alternatives for all. Alternatives that do not penalize or attempt to steer the middle class towards politically motivated alternatives. We all want thoughtful, economic and environmentally sound private and public transportation solutions. However, the automobile provides for many low income and middle class families a level of flexibility. that other transportation solutions do not provide. Please help us protect our choices and push for real transportation solutions for all, and not those that are politically motivated. Thanks for all your work and efforts!

  3. “Lock boxes” typically only work for money that is put into them AFTER the money is in there, however funds will be “diverted” to other sources BEFORE they get transferring in. However, pretend money is in them. Iit DOES NOT mean that money will be spent on fixing bridges or widening roads like I-95, the money could still be used for politicians “pet” transportation projects as long as it could be considered “infrastructure”. The smart way to build infrastructure is to prioritize the projects by their overall economic impact to the state, do those first.

  4. How many years have Fasano and Looney been in office? And look what we have to show for it. One of the five highest total tax burdens and the third highest unfunded pension liability in the country. I have lost all faith in our politicians to act in our best interests. This is why we’re leaving. In fact I’m writing this as my wife and I look at places in NC and TN to move to.

  5. You just found out that Lamont is not to be trusted? Really?!?! NO one wants to pay a penny more for promises that will not be kept. I would pay if I got what was sold to me but it isn’t happening.
    But, what the heck; voters put him in office. Hope they’re happy.

  6. Speaking of Fasano & Looney, how about the amendment to Senate Bill 641, ‘AN ACT CONCERNING REVIEW OF ELECTION LAWS,’ they sponsored? Text put forth at 10 pm, voted on at 11:46 pm with no explanation or discussion. See:
    https://ctmirror.org/2019/07/03/they-love-public-financing-the-oversight-not-as-much/?utm_source=Connecticut+Mirror+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=9b0e73df1d-DAILY_BRIEFING_MORNING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_571d22f8e4-9b0e73df1d-68155809

    Why should we trust either side?

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