Senator Henri Martin (R-Bristol), Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee, at a press conference in 2019 unveiling the Republican transportation investment plan, FASTR-CT (Fiscal Accountability & Sustainable Transportation Reform CT)

Connecticut’s economy has suffered because Connecticut Democrats have not made transportation infrastructure investment a priority.

The CT Mirror recently took a closer look at this issue, highlighting how Democrats in charge of our state have misused taxpayer dollars, breaking the public’s trust and spending more than $1 billion in fuel tax receipts on non-transportation programs between 2006 and 2014. The Mirror also pointed out that Democrats have failed to pass tolls and thus far have offered no other solutions to our transportation problems.

But the CT Mirror failed to acknowledge that other solutions to invest in transportation infrastructure have been proposed – by Connecticut Republicans.

While Democrats tried and failed to pass tolls, for good reason, Republicans developed multiple proposals to prioritize transportation infrastructure investment, to grow construction jobs, and to do so without taking more from taxpayers’ wallets. We have long argued that if improving transportation is the goal of our state leaders, they shouldn’t be stuck on tolls, they should be open to all potential solutions.

The most recent Republican transportation investment proposal,  FASTR CT, would have invested as much in transportation as the Democrats’ latest toll plan, but it worked without tolls, without tax increases and with significantly less borrowing.

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Had we passed FASTR CT last year, we would be on much stronger financial footing today with more construction jobs, a spark in the economy and we would have a jump start on needed infrastructure investment.

We would have created approximately 23,000 good-paying jobs generating nearly $38 billion in economic activity which could be helping to carry our economy through the recession we now face.

Our state finances would have been stronger, because FASTR CT would have made a down payment on the biggest financial problem our state is facing: our unfunded liabilities. It also would have eliminated a large amount of high-interest state borrowing and reduced debt, thereby providing relief from one of our most crushing burdens that has crowded out funding for core social services. All of this would have been done in part by better utilizing the state’s budget reserve fund, much like using money in your personal savings account earning little interest to pay down on your credit card debt that has huge interest. And when all was said and done we would still have nearly $2 billion in the budget reserve fund today to help us weather the pandemic we now face; plus jobs, plus infrastructure investment, plus economic growth.

Sadly, Connecticut did not do any of this, because instead of looking at alternative solutions, Democrats focused only on tolls and dismissed all other proposals out of hand.

Looking ahead, the strategy of one-party rule should not be repeated. Now more than ever we need to think creatively, innovatively and bipartisanly when it comes to our state’s recovery.

Transportation, like all things post-pandemic, has changed in our state. Lawmakers need to be ready to look at our challenges with fresh eyes and a new perspective. We also cannot fall back on the same old strategy of asking the people of Connecticut to pay more. New revenue is not a panacea, especially not now when our families can least afford it.

State Sen. Henri Martin of Bristol represents Connecticut’s 31st District.

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