Facing the challenge of funding a series of ambitious, decades-long transportation projects, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced the formation of a Transportation Finance Panel last week.
Malloy first introduced his 30-year transportation plans in his budget address in February. At the time, he did not outline how he would fund his proposal — which includes widening highways, expanding rail service and upgrading bridges across the state. Since then, state officials and residents have expressed frustration with Malloy’s administration for not proposing any funding ideas. The new panel, charged with developing potential funding plans by the end of this summer, is intended to combat that.
“The governor was pretty clear in explaining that he wants us to develop a menu of options for providing financing for thirty years of transportation improvements,” said former New Haven state Rep. Cameron Staples, who is chairing the panel. “He’s not looking for us to specifically say which financing options would occur in which years.”
Thus far, the only transportation funding option proposed by legislators is instituting tolls on state highways. Staples said Malloy has not ruled out tolls or any other specific funding methods and that the panel will consider all options before making any recommendations.
The nine members selected for the panel are professionals in different fields, so as to make the panel more inclusive and fair, said Garrett Eucallitto, undersecretary for Transportation Policy and Planning at the Office of Policy and Management. The group’s members, he noted, include individuals with backgrounds in clean energy, housing and economic development.
Eucallitto’s role on the panel is to serve as the liaison between the panel and the administration, ensuring panel members have access to all the research and information they might need.
“I will assist the chair with whatever he needs to run the panel efficiently and effectively,” Eucallitto said. “Connecticut cannot wait any longer to solve this problem, and we have a governor and a General Assembly who have made fixing our infrastructure a priority.”
The panel will also hold conversations with commissioners of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Revenue Services and the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.
Andres Ayala, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, said he will provide the panel with accurate information about the revenues the Connecticut DMV collects. Other departments will have similar roles. Although they will not participate directly, Ayala said, representatives of other departments will ensure the panel receives the necessary information to make its recommendations.
“The Connecticut DMV is glad to be included in this conversation,” Ayala said. “Formulating a panel like this is an excellent strategy to cover all positions and issues.”
The panel expects to have its first meeting this month, Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia said. After this first meeting, Staples anticipates holding monthly meetings until the end of the deadline set by the governor for the panel’s report.
Staples also said the panel intends to hold at least one public meeting to seek input for financing options, but the panel has not yet set the date for that meeting.
“It will not just be us meeting amongst ourselves,” Staples said. “At this meeting, the public will be invited to testify and give their ideas.”
Staples previously served as house chairman of the General Assembly’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.