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CT Construction Digest Friday november 22, 2019

Governor Lamont has proposed a 10-year transportation plan. Visit CT2030 

Senate Republicans have proposed a 10-year transportation plan as well.  Visit Fastr CT

The plans deliver the same projects over the next 10 years!  The plans would provide a faster commute, safer travel, jobs, and economic activity!
The Senate Democratic Caucus will not support Governor Lamont’s plan because they are nervous about voting for tolls.
The Senate Democrats are “taking a look” at the Senate Republican Plan.
The Senate Democrats have no plan!
Call the Senate Democratic Leadership!
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney 860-240-0375
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff 860-240-0414
Ask them…since they oppose Governor Lamont’s and "taking a look" at the Republican Plan…
What is their plan to fix Connecticut’s failing transportation systems?


Jacqueline Smith: A déjà vu on tolls, or the road to nowhere


In 1983, the Legislature decided to remove those tolls, as well as ones at three Hartford-area bridges, prompted by a horrific accident that killed six people at the Stratford toll plaza that year. On June 24, 1988 tolls closed on the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways, 49 years after opening.
(Trivia tidbit: The last toll in Connecticut was paid on April 28, 1989 at the Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford by William Thornton, president of the Manchester Sand & Gravel Company. He was the first person to pay the toll, at age 13, when the bridge opened in 1942.)
On Wednesday morning I was once again crossing the Sikorsky bridge on my way to the New Haven Register, this time for a Hearst Media Group Editorial Board meeting with Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano. You can guess the topic.
It has been a frothing time of competing plans — tolls/no tolls/truck-only-tolls — raised and shot down, sometimes within hours.
Turns out, state residents also have strong feelings about the subject and want the politicians to listen. My column last week, “Let’s hear from the people on tolls,” drew quite a reaction from readers — both for and against — and I’d like to give them a chance to be heard.
“Every time I hit a pothole or look at the bridges in disrepair, what needs to be done, I’m in favor of tolls and a higher gas tax. If we want good roads and bridges, we need to pay for them,” wrote Harvey Paulin of Derby, a self-described senior citizen and “first time reply-er.”
Bernard Waleski of Shelton is not convinced. “This reads like a press release from Governor Lamont’s office,” he said of my column. “The legislature’s problem is spending not generating money. No tolls.”
Elizabeth Broncati of Norwalk wants “nothing to do with tolls.” They are the bane “of driver’s existence, especially I-95 in Fairfield County. In fact, maybe this is the time the rest of the state pays more for highways, instead of Fairfield County again footing the bill for the rest of the state.”

A lifelong resident, he “believes Connecticut has not changed for the better.”
Oversight of transportation projects is also a concern for Martin Katz of Wilton. “CT2030 (Gov. Lamont’s plan) is a comprehensive plan for infrastructure improvements that have been neglected for years. But what is the ‘plan’ to manage these projects? ... Most residents have no confidence in CT to implement cost effective improvements. ... Residents don’t want another User Tax that has no end in sight!”
Carol Salvato of Wilton sees tolls as “inevitable.” “I am in favor of tolls with a 75 percent discount locked in for CT residents for 50 years and a sealed tight lockbox for proceeds. We pay tolls in all of the states for road maintenance and if we don’t institute tolls for CT we will pay through taxation for repairs anyway. .. I don’t want tolls either, but my practical mind dictates the necessity of them.”
Charles H. Parkhurst of Greenwich has an idea. “Since tolls are regressive I suggest that the state sales tax (which is also regressive) be lowered to a level that makes the combination roughly revenue neutral. ... With more and more electric cars on the roads who pay no gas taxes, it’s only fair that they also contribute to the maintenance and upgrade of the roads and bridges.”
Helen Robinson of New Haven agrees that “politicians have had a BIG say in the tolls debate, but not much has been heard recently from citizens. .... They pay tolls in NY and Mass, and they resent truckers and others who get a free ride to cause wear and tear on our roads.” She would like to see a more extensive poll.
The last Quinnipiac Poll on tolls (one of 25 questions regarding the 2018 state elections) indicated 53 percent of Connecticut voters opposed tolls on state highways, with 40 percent in favor. Drilling down into the statistics, Democrats were more likely to support tolls than Republicans. I wonder if positions have shifted since the August, 2018 poll and the intense debate.
I know that my thinking has evolved in the past year with the realization that fixing our highways, bridges and rail systems will end up costing taxpayers one way or another. With borrowing, we pay 100 percent (even with low interest rates); with tolls at least out-of-state drivers will pay an estimated 40 percent.
Fasano is adamant against tolls. I asked if there was any room for compromise, for example, on the Democrats’ idea the other day for trucks-only tolls. No, he replied without hesitation. Trucks one day, cars the next.
I credit Fasano and the Senate Republicans for doing the hard work and coming up with a reasonable response to Lamont’s CT2030 plan. They call it FASTR CT, for Fiscal Accountability & Sustainable Transportation Reform. But a criticism is that it takes money from the Rainy Day cushion to pay down pension liability.
So here we are. Lamont’s own Democratic party isn’t behind his plan for limited tolls, and Republicans certainly won’t go there. Democrats’ trial balloon of trucks-only tolls crashed, and Republicans don’t have a majority for their plan.
Up in Hartford they’re saying that tolls are dead for now, and possibly even for the next General Assembly session that opens in February. But that doesn’t mean taxpayers aren’t worrying about tolls — one way or the other. It doesn’t seem fair to leave everyone hanging.
 
Jim Shay
The state Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing on the rehabilitation - or replacement - of a 55-year-old Route 8 bridge in Thomaston that is in poor condition.
The public information meeting will be held on Thursday, Dec. 5 at the Lena Morton Gallery at Town Hall, 158 Main St. in Thomaston. The formal presentation will begin at 7 p.m. In the event of inclement weather, the meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 9 at the same time and place.
The bridge carries southbound Route 8 over Reynolds Bridge Road. The 2015 estimated average daily traffic is approximately 16,500 vehicles.
“The purpose of the project is to rehabilitate Bridge 01729, which was originally constructed in 1964. The project is being initiated to address the structural deficiencies of the existing structure to improve the condition of the bridge to a state of good repair. Bridge 01729 carries Route 8 Southbound with two lanes of traffic,” DOT said in a release.

“A full superstructure replacement is recommended due to the deterioration of the existing concrete bridge deck and impact damage to structural components, with components of the existing bridge rated to be in poor condition.” One lane of traffic will be maintained on Route 8 throughout construction.
Reynolds Bridge Road may be intermittently closed and traffic detoured for short durations while the bridge is removed and replaced. There are no right-of-way impacts associated with the proposed improvements.
Construction is anticipated to begin in fall of 2021 based on the availability of funding.
The construction is estimated to be completed by the fall of 2022.
The estimated construction cost for this project is approximately $3.3 million. The construction of this project is anticipated to be undertaken with 100-percent state funds.
Plans of the proposed project will be on display for public review. Department personnel will be available during the meeting to discuss this project. More detailed information is available at the Department’s Office of Engineering, 2800 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, Connecticut, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., excluding holidays. Anyone wishing to discuss the project may contact Bryan H. Reed at (860) 594-3418 or by email at Bryan.Reed@ct.gov.

Legal ruling moves Hartford one step closer to DoNo redevelopment
Matt Pilon
An attempt by spurned Dunkin’ Donuts Park developer Centerplan to wrest back some control of development parcels around the ballpark has failed.
The state Appellate Court on Wednesday denied a request by Centerplan to place liens back on four parcels surrounding the stadium, which prompted Mayor Luke Bronin to say the city will press forward with a planned $200-million, mixed-use development in the area to be spearheaded by another developer.
The city successfully requested that those liens be lifted after winning a jury verdict in July that found Centerplan and Dono Hartford LLC -- both controlled by Robert Landino -- were at fault for stadium-construction delays that led the city to terminate its contract with the companies.
Centerplan is still appealing that decision.
Bronin said Wednesday’s Appellate Court  ruling “fully clears the way forward” for developing the parcels around the ballpark. He said the city is in the final stages of negotiating a development agreement with RMS Companies of Stamford, which is led by Randy Salvatore.
Phase one of RMS’ plan includes a $46-million investment to build 200 apartments, with retail and parking, on one of the four parcels. RMS would have the option to develop the other three parcels, if certain conditions are met.
An attorney for Centerplan did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

Wooden: Spending reserves would weaken investor confidence in CT
Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas
Spending state budget reserves to bolster transportation could undermine Connecticut’s readiness for the next recession, weaken investor confidence and increase borrowing costs, state Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden warned in a letter released Wednesday.
In a letter hand delivered Tuesday to Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders, Wooden also said the rainy day fund’s growth over the past two years has bolstered Connecticut’s standing with Wall Street credit rating agencies.
“After years of difficult budgets and fiscal crisis, the state is on a better course,” Wooden wrote. “The Budget Reserve Fund has reached historic levels because of fiscal discipline and smart policy.”
The warning from the treasurer overlapped with an almost identical message from the Office of Fiscal Analysis Wednesday.  In its annual report, OFA said Connecticut needs to keep its rainy day fund intact as protection for the next recession.
Prior to that, the largest fiscal cushion Connecticut ever had was the nearly $1.4 billion it banked just prior to the start of last recession in mid-2009.
That reserve, which represented 8% of annual operating costs, quickly was exhausted in the last recession and Connecticut still borrowed nearly $1 billion to cover operating debt.
As an alternative to Lamont’s proposal to impose tolls on cars and trucks at 14 bridges across the state to finance a major transportation rebuild, Senate Republicans have proposed spending 60% of the current $2.5 billion reserve, which amounts to about $1.5 billion.
Those dollars would immediately be deposited into the cash-starved pension fund for state employees. In turn, this would trigger lower contribution rates. And Senate Republicans say this annual savings could be funneled into the transportation program over the next decade.
The Senate Republican plan still would leave $1 billion in the rainy day fund. Assuming current economic trends continue, nonpartisan analysts say that reserve could grow to $1.3 billion by the end of next summer and above $1.7 billion by mid-2021.
But there is historical evidence to support Wooden’s caution.
During the last recession, General Fund tax receipts fell from $12.5 billion in 2008 to $10.9 billion in 2010 — a drop of $1.6 billion.
The treasurer said his office is preparing two significant bond offerings in the coming weeks. Connecticut issues bonds on Wall Street to finance a wide array of capital programs including municipal school construction; projects at public colleges and universities; highway, bridge and rail upgrades; improvements to wastewater treatment facilities; state building maintenance; and various, smaller projects in legislators’ home districts.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano responded Wednesday, saying: “It’s extremely disappointing that the treasurer would rather play politics than work together on policy. The treasurer has already made up his mind before he’s had any conversations regarding the details of the plan or reviewed the numbers.”
Fasano said he contacted Wooden on Monday and asked for a meeting to discuss the Senate Republicans’ proposed investment in transportation.
“When investors look at the state’s actions, they must look at the whole picture.,” Fasano added, questioning the substance of Wooden’s discussions with investment bankers. “I have no idea what the treasurer presented and to whom because he has not even met with me yet to review the Senate Republican plan. What numbers did he show? Who did he talk to? What analysis did he provide?”
Lamont told reporters Wednesday morning that he shared some of Wooden’s concerns.
But the governor said he appreciated Fasano’s efforts and would consider a less aggressive use of the budget reserves, perhaps in concert with other sources, such as the trucks-only tolling plan proposed Tuesday by House Democrats.
“The Senate Republicans have a credible plan out there. I’ve got to look at it. The House Democrats, they have a credible plan out there,” Lamont said. “We have a plan, which I think is really good.”
The governor’s first year in office has been dominated by his efforts to restore solvency to the Special Transportation Fund and speed commutes by making improvements to Metro-North and eliminating highway bottlenecks.
Lamont’s original proposal for raising nearly $800 million through a comprehensive system of tolls on automobiles and trucks on Route 15 and Interstates 84, 91 and 95 never came to a vote.
“My job is to get people to yes. My job is to reach a solution,” the governor said.
Lamont said he believes legislative leadership is engaged and ready to find a way to finance a significant portion of CT2030.
“I’m encouraged in this sense — all the different groups know we have to increase our investment in transportation,” he said. “We don’t all agree on how to pay for it, but I think we’re going to find some common ground.”

New York legislators say Gov. Ned Lamont is targeting New Yorkers with toll on I-684 in
Greenwich

Plans for a toll on I-684 in Greenwich have drawn the ire of New York state legislators who say Gov. Ned Lamont is specifically targeting New Yorkers by charging drivers during the 1.4-mile stretch the highway cuts through Connecticut.“In effect, it would create a ‘New York’ tax on our constituents who must transverse this small section of Connecticut in their drive within New York State,” Sens. Shelley B. Mayer and Peter B. Harckham and Reps. David Buchwald and Kevin Byrne wrote in a letter to Lamont’s office and legislative leaders dated Wednesday.Out-of-state drivers would pay 85% of the toll revenue at the Greenwich site, according to a projection included as part of the governor’s CT2030 transportation plan.“Governor Ned Lamont is focused on ensuring that Connecticut residents get the best possible transportation plan," said Max Reiss, a spokesman for the governor.While I-684 passes through Greenwich, there are no on-ramps or exits in Connecticut. And New York handles routine maintenance of the stretch that travels through Connecticut, including snow plowing. The 28.4-mile highway connects I-84 in Brewster, New York, near Danbury, to I-287 and the Hutchinson River Parkway in White Plains, New York.The New York lawmakers said drivers would likely get off the highway and take local roads to avoid the toll, increasing traffic in the communities they represent.“This proposed toll encourages drivers to avoid the toll by taking detours off I-684 onto the secondary roads through Connecticut and New York, resulting in increased local maintenance and road repair costs,” they wrote.The Journal News, a New York newspaper that covers Westchester County, posted a story on its website with an interactive map that detailed how drivers could avoid paying the toll, which a headline described as the “panhandling panhandle.”The toll, with a base rate of 50 cents, would be situated where the highway passes over the Byram River. The money raised would go toward a bridge there that is in need of $13 million worth of repairs, according to Lamont’s transportation plan In the Connecticut state legislature, Sen. Alex Bergstein, D-Greenwich, told The Journal News that while she supports tolls, she was opposed to the gantry in Greenwich. “I do not believe in taxation without representation, and I was surprised to see a proposed toll on 684 that runs from New York state into Connecticut for a short stretch,” she said. “I do not support fees on that portion of 684. However, I do believe that drivers using Connecticut’s major highways should contribute to their maintenance and improvement. New York and every state in our region has tolls for this reason.”The New York lawmakers said they were committed to working with Lamont on improving shared infrastructure “but we cannot do so in a matter that explicitly targets and has a disproportionate impact on our neighboring residents, particularly low- and moderate-income residents.”The fate of the I-684 toll, and the rest of Lamont’s 10-year, $21 billion plan, is uncertain. Senate Democrats rebuffed his proposal for 14 tolls across the state while Senate Republicans have released their own transportation plan that relies on dipping into the state’s rainy day fund to finance repairs in lieu of tolls. House Democrats meanwhile have voiced their support for truck-only tolls, a proposal Lamont campaigned on last year but ditched in February, saying it would not raise enough money for needed repairs. House Republicans say their own transportation plan is forthcoming.All sides are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss the options that have been presented.

Debunking Connecticut’s enduring tax myth

It was one of the talking points casually employed last week by Patrick Sasser, a leader of the No Tolls CT movement: Why should anyone believe a suggestion by Gov. Ned Lamont that the tolls he was seeking could be temporary, when that was how the income tax was sold in 1991?
Carol Platt Liebau, the president of the conservative Yankee Institute, made the same argument in a statement published on Nov. 7: “No sensible person can believe the claim that these tolls would be temporary, given Connecticut’s long history of ‘temporary’ taxes that have turned out to be permanent — including the state income tax.”
The income-tax-as-temporary complaint has taken root among Republicans in recent years and blossomed on Twitter and Facebook. It was repeated by two Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2018 — Bob Stefanowski and Timothy Herbst — and casually mentioned in an interview this year by the House Republican leader, Themis Klarides.
There is only one problem. It is a myth.
The public record is unambiguous. On Feb. 13, 1991, Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. told a joint session of the General Assembly of his intention to make sweeping and permanent changes to Connecticut’s tax system — sharply cutting the sales, corporations and investment income taxes and imposing a tax on wages.
Six months later, after three budget vetoes, the legislature acceded to Weicker’s wishes by adopting a tax package different from the original proposal, but still a top-to-bottom overhaul of the tax code.
There was no sunset provision striking it from the books after five years, as Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, recently said he once believed.
In fact, an element of the final debate in the House was that there would be no going back once the new revenue source was on the books. “It lets the genie out of the bottle,” said Rep. J. Peter Fusscas, a Republican from Marlborough. “Once it’s out, it ain’t never going back in.”
As he prepared to sign the budget, Weicker spoke of it as the foundation for the future, not a stopgap: “When I sign this budget Connecticut will be closing the book on its past, and it’ll be facing toward the future.”Temporary? Hardly.
So, how did the narrative change?
“This is a really interesting question,” said Emily Thorson, a Syracuse University political scientist who has written articles about misinformation in politics and is currently writing a book on the subject.
Thorson said falsehoods about policies, as opposed to people, have their own dynamic. They can slip into public consciousness over time, especially when they take root outside political campaigns, where candidates are challenged by opponents and fact-checked by journalists. 
“With policy perceptions, it’s not about what a candidate did or didn’t do,” Thorson said. “Misconceptions about a particular policy, these are pretty common.”
Thorson said examples include the perception that U.S. foreign aid consumes a significant piece of the federal budget. (One poll found a belief it constitutes 25%, not the actual one percent.) Or that benefits under a federal welfare program, TANF, can be collected indefinitely. (TANF, an acronym for temporary assistant for needy families, limits how long recipients can get aid.)
When a public policy no longer is in the news, it is especially vulnerable to misinformation. The proponents move on, memories fade, and details get simplified or twisted.
Thorson said this can happen without malicious intent.“They are often the result of people trying to piece together information in a fragmented media environment,” she said.
It’s been 28 years since Connecticut adopted a tax on wages, and the turnover in the General Assembly is nearly complete: 100% in the Senate (though three current senators were House members in 1991), and 97% in the House. 
Connecticut does have a history of taxes proposed as temporary, but that never quite go away. A surcharge on the corporations tax was imposed in 1989 with the expectation it would disappear in two years. It is still around.
Republicans say the myth of a temporary income tax took root because it reflects something real: a mistrust in government, particularly on issues of taxes and finance.
“The bottom line is people don’t trust government,” said Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford. “I think that’s what we need to recognize.”
“People feel government has tricked them so many times. They are right to feel that way,” said Joe Markley, a former state senator who was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018. “The most temporary thing about the income tax were the low rates.”
Weicker’s original proposal was to impose a 6% income tax and cut the 8% sales tax to 4.25%.
The version adopted by the General Assembly on Aug. 21, 1991 imposed a 4.5% income tax and cut the sales tax to 6%. The 13.8% corporate tax was  lowered to 10.5% over two years. Income from capital gains, dividends and interest, which had been taxed between 7% and 14%, were treated as regular income, taxed at 4.5%.
Income tax rates now range from 3% to 6.99%. The sales tax is 6.35%, with an additional percentage point on restaurant food and other prepared meals that was adopted in 2019.
Markley is a passionate Weicker critic who helped his friend, former state Sen. Tom Scott, organize a massive anti-income tax protest at the State Capitol after withholding began in 1991. But he is a character witness for Weicker and the other income-tax supporters on the question of whether the tax ever was pitched as temporary.
“This is the one sin they didn’t commit,” Markley said.
Markley said he sometimes corrects people on Facebook when they repeat the falsehood.
Not everyone is easily persuaded.
France, the state representative from Ledyard who once believed the income tax was passed with a sunset provision, reacted angrily in May 2018 when this reporter corrected him. 
“I was taken aback,” he said this week.
 But he checked the legislation, found no sunset provision and now accepts it never was intended to be temporary. France said he cannot recall who first suggested otherwise; it was just part of the conversation in his political circles.Sasser, the tolls opponent, said he could not recall how he came to believe the income tax was meant to be temporary and was surprised to learn the story was false. Liebau, of the Yankee Institute, did not return a call for comment.
Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, who was in his second term when he voted for the income tax, said the persistence of the rumor is a sign of the times.
“It’s the age of Trump. It’s the age of ‘fake news.’ People make up narratives that are total fiction,” Godfrey said. “This crap gets out there all over the place, and no one bothers to do their own fact checking.”
Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, who voted for the income tax as a House member, said he is stunned every time someone tells him that the income tax was meant to be temporary.
“I keep hearing that all the time,” Looney said. “It’s completely fictitious. Who would work that hard and bleed that much for something that was temporary?”
In 1971, Connecticut adopted an income tax, but repealed it before it ever took effect, one potential source of the confusion today.
But Looney is among those more inclined to think that Republican John G. Rowland’s promise in 1994 to eliminate the income tax once he was elected governor muddied memories. “Maybe some people transformed that into a representation it was supposed to be temporary,” Looney said.
 Rowland never submitted a budget that would have eliminated the income tax during his nearly 10 years as governor.
The income tax was revived as an issue in 2018 by Stefanowski, the GOP gubernatorial nominee. The centerpiece of his campaign was the one that helped Rowland 24 years earlier:  A claim he could eventually eliminate the tax on wages, now the single largest source of tax revenue in Connecticut.
Stefanowski used to describe the tax as temporary in stump speeches until it was reported as inaccurate by CT Mirror. His campaign manager, Patrick Trueman, said he then looked for news stories supporting Stefanowski’s claim and found none, and Stefanowski dropped the reference in his speeches.
Trueman said Scott, who was an adviser to the campaign, was among those who told Stefanowski the tax was meant to be temporary. “Tom Scott,  who was there and quite frankly ought to know better, repeated it again and again and again,” Trueman said.
Scott said Trueman is mistaken. Scott said he never told anyone the tax was proposed as temporary, only that he heard a vague rumor during the long tax fight in 1991 that proponents might try to pick up support by changing it to a temporary tax — something that never happened
“We never tracked down the source,” Scott said. “It was part of the noise.”
Stefanowski said that while he was wrong to fall for the myth that the income tax was intended to be temporary, the man who defeated him has proven that taxpayers have every right to mistrust politicians.
Lamont insisted during the campaign he was opposed to all tolls except on trucks. In February, Lamont reneged on that pledge by proposing a comprehensive system of tolling on all motor vehicles.
“There is a general mistrust of government,” Stefanowski said. “He made it worse.”

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