Connecticut Gov. Malloy signs revised budget, wants to further protect transportation funding



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HARTFORD, Connecticut — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, after signing a revised two-year, $40.3 billion state budget into law on Tuesday, said there's at least one more change he'd like to see made.

He told reporters the state needs to amend its constitution to ensure that revenue collected for Connecticut's Special Transportation Fund are spent on transportation expenses, including infrastructure, and not on other programs.

"I think that last night's step was the first step to getting us to the constitutional (amendment), and I believe that relatively shortly we'll have constitutional (amendment)," he said, referring to the budget-related bill that was approved during a special legislative session on Monday. That bill, which made some last-minute changes to the budget, included a statutory provision restricting how the fund's money can be spent.

Malloy has proposed a 30-year, $100 billion overhaul of the state transportation infrastructure, including highways, bridges and rail. While a committee is looking at ways to pay for that plan, the budget bill Malloy signed into law sets aside a small portion of the 6.35 percent state sales tax for transportation needs.

The process to amend Connecticut's constitution can take two years. A majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate, in two succeeding legislative sessions, need to agree to place the question before voters. But if three-quarters of lawmakers in each chamber agree, the question can appear on the next November ballot.

Malloy said Tuesday he hopes the question of amending the constitution to include a transportation funding guarantee, called a lockbox, could be presented to the voters in November 2016.

"I'm not done pushing for it," he said.

The governor's communications director, Mark Bergman, said the administration will decide in the next couple of months whether to call lawmakers back for another special legislative session to pass the necessary legislation or take up the bill during the next regular session, in February, and hope for a three-quarters majority vote.

In May, Malloy publicly urged lawmakers to pass his version of a lockbox bill, which would make the Special Transportation Fund a perpetual fund, restricting use for only transportation purposes. The governor said he was concerned that a similar bill included an escape clause that would allow the legislature, by a three-fifths vote in each chamber, to use the money for other needs in an emergency.

Malloy said taxpayers need to know that revenue collected for the state's massive transportation overhaul are dedicated for transportation and not spent on other things, as has happened in the past.

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