Sarah Jorgensen, who fought against Gov. Dannel Malloy's attempt to create a new state agency with the ability to seize land and homes near bus stops and train stations in Connecticut through eminent domain, was awarded this year's Unsung Hero Award from the Yankee Institute for Public Policy. The proposed Transit Corridor Development Authority (TCDA) would have been a new quasi-public state agency with the power to borrow money and seize private property near bus and train stations through eminent domain.
Connecticut has pledged $300,000 to study the possibility of a mileage tax but, as Representative Gail Lavielle notes, the money is wasted because the state would get the results of the study even if it committed no funds at all. Connecticut is part of the I-95 Corridor Coalition, which consists of 16 states along the Atlantic seaboard. Connecticut would receive the results of the pilot study regardless of its cash contribution because the results are shared with all members of the coalition. In all, eleven states are contributing no funds to the study but will still have access to the findings. “Why Connecticut has to be a leader is beyond me,” Lavielle said in an interview.
Andres Ayala Jr. resigned as head of the troubled Connecticut DMV in the wake of a disastrous role out of a new computer system. The computer software, meant to streamline DMV services, resulted in massive wait times, erroneously suspended registrations and a number of angry complaints beginning in August 2015. While Ayala appeared to shoulder the blame, his tenure and the continued problems came at the end of a process that began in 2009.
The Department of Motor Vehicles, which recently saw its commissioner resign amid serious customer service problems, spent $1.9 million on overtime in the first six months of fiscal year 2016, already exceeding the $1.7 million spent in 2015. DMV overtime is only likely to increase with a backlog of hundreds of thousands of requests. Gov. Dannel Malloy recently appointed Dennis Murphy, former deputy commissioner of the Labor Department, to replace Andres Ayala as DMV commissioner.
With the news that General Electric is leaving Fairfield for Boston fresh in the mind of lawmakers, 2016 can be a year of opportunity for Connecticut. It can be, that is, if lawmakers make it one. We can argue over blame, but that would be a distraction. We can give up, but that would be a shame. But if we accept that policy needs an altered direction we can build on our state’s strengths, prevent future losses like GE and bring new opportunities to Connecticut.
Before lawmakers even consider raising the gas tax to fund transportation, they need to reassess how they spend existing transportation funds. Many of the state’s new projects offer little return on investment and represent a long-term maintenance cost. Lawmakers should focus on repairing the infrastructure we have rather than building new infrastructure we can’t afford. The latest payment for Connecticut’s rail line to Massachusetts makes the choices clear. The $155 million borrowed to pay for the new line almost exactly equals the $160 million needed for repairs to Metro-North’s New Haven line.