Former Senator Len Suzio's Testimony infront of Transportation Committee

I was vice chair of the Transportation Committee during 2017 and 2018. During that time I completely studied the concept of tolls and Connecticut's transportation infrastructure needs. I think I know as much as any legislator about this controversial topic.

The entire debate about tolls in Connecticut is being driven by the belief that the Special Transportation Fund will be out of money in the near future. Underlying that belief are 3 serious, perhaps fatal, flaws. At the Transportation Committee hearing yesterday I learned that one of those flaws is absolutely fatal and underscores how fanatically blind toll advocates are to the real facts. Let me explain the 3 assumptions and what is wrong with them and the shocking information I learned during yesterday's hearing.

• Gas tax collections are "disappearing" (Governor Lamont's phrase at meeting with 300 business leaders reported on Feb 28) - gas tax revenues in fact are increasing. In FY 2005 the state collected about $650 million in gas taxes. For fiscal year 2018 the state collected $822 million in gas taxes. The 2018 collections were nearly $85 million more than the previous year. Gas taxes are not disappearing as a source of revenue to sustain our transportation needs. The Governor ought to know better.
• The DOT 30-year capital program is projected to cost more than $100 billion - a spectacular 300% increase in spending from the pre-Malloy history when annual capital spending was about $1 billion annually. This unbelievable level of spending was never seriously vetted by the legislature. No one questioned the amount, the timing, the priorities and what alternatives were available. It was just taken as true. YESTERDAY I LEARNED SOMETHING TRULY SHOCKING ABOUT THIS DURING THE HEARING. When I pointed out the uncritical acceptance of the Plan by the legislature the chairman of the Transportation Committee told me that DOT Plan is the "previous administration's plan". I asked him what is the new plan by the Lamont Administration he suggested I ask the Administration! KEEP IN MIND HOW CRITICAL THIS IS - we are being asked to install tolls as a means of financing a non-existent transportation plan. This is like asking the bank for a mortgage on a house you haven't bought and you don't know what it will cost. It's like saying to the banker, "give me a million dollars and I will figure out what I will do with it after you give it to me"- talk about putting the cart before the horse! This led me to ask the chairman when the Committee will have a hearing on the new Administration's Plan and he said it wasn't the Committee's business (or something to that effect). This is truly spectacularly unbelievable - we are embarking on the biggest spending program in Connecticut's history and the committee of cognizance doesn't know what the plan is but is racing ahead to finance a non-existent plan!
• The final assumption underlying the "need" for tolls is the assumption that not a dollar of federal money will be available to help pay for the cost of the non-existent DOT capital plan. But historically the federal government has paid 70% to 80% of the Connecticut's transportation capital projects. Moreover, the Trump Administration has announced that Transportation infrastructure is a high priority. If the federal government does participate in supporting the cost of Connecticut's transportation capital program it would wipe out the entire forecasted STF deficit and there would be no "need" for tolls! So why rush ahead to commit to spending nearly $400 million on tolls infrastructure when federal policy may eliminate the projected deficits? It would be imprudent and reckless to proceed with tolls until we know what the federal government will do - and that will become much more clear during 2019. Here is the section of the hearing where I exchanged comments with Senator Leoni Transportation Committee hearing on tolls - Senator Suzio-Senator Leoni exchange (CLICK ON CT-N LINK BELOW) --

Senator Suzio-Senator Leoni exchange
Former State Senator Len Suzio
Meriden, Cheshire, Middlefield, Middletown, Rockfall