I am proposing 667 million dollars for 342 new self-propelled rail cars for the New Haven to New York line; 300 million dollars for a new rail maintenance facility; 187 million dollars for congestion mitigation measures for I-95 between Greenwich and North Stonington; 150 million dollars for improvements and congestion mitigation on I-91 and I-84; and 7.5 million dollars for new transit buses. These expenditures are above and beyond what we are already scheduled to spend.
Good. We need this. What I like even better is her plan to pay for it:
I am calling for a total gas tax increase of six cents - over the next 8 eight years. And this money will be used exclusively for these transportation projects. You'll see your pennies at work on the rails, at the airport and on our highways.
In the late 1990s we cut the gas tax by 14 cents. As I said, I am proposing to increase it by six cents - over a several year period. Even at its peak in 2013 at 31 cents a gallon, the gas tax will still be far lower than it was in 1997 at 39 cents.
I am also proposing a $1 surcharge, beginning in 2008, on all tickets for trips on the New Haven Line. The surcharge revenue will only be spent for the New Haven Line revitalization program. Let me repeat that - it will ONLY be spent for the rail car program and it will not go into effect until the new rail cars are put into service.
There are many citizens who believe that any increase in taxes should be anathema, and that we should work with what we have instead of burdening taxpayers more. I would respond that taxes are necessary in this case to keep our infrastructure-dependent society moving. These particular increases are not back breaking, and, if they truly only go to pay for the transportation measures, should be a concrete lesson for us in what, exactly, our taxes are paying for.
The only thing that bothers me here is the fare increase for Metro North riders. Fees have gone up for commuters by quite a lot lately. We want people to use public transportation as much as possible, and I fear that higher ticket prices might drive some back on to the highways. The Democrats in the legislature should consider alternatives. The so-called "millionaire's tax" is once again on the table: let's get that done and save commuters another headache.
Another proposal in my budget calls for a tuition freeze at all state colleges and universities. The freeze will apply across the board - at UConn, the four state universities and our 12 community-technical colleges.
The presidents at these schools are grousing because they weren't consulted about this, but I say too bad. The more kids who can afford to go to college, the better. The rise in tuition at all colleges over the past twenty years has been really alarming.
Under this plan, every nursing home in the state and the more than 350 nonprofit community providers would receive a four percent increase in their state funding.
Yes, we would impose a tax on private payers in the system now, and yes we would have to make a limited, narrow exception to the state spending cap. But doing so will allow us to receive matching federal funds and to stave off a potential health care crisis.
But let me be clear about this: if the federal government does not support this initiative with matching funds, I will not support it either.
Rowland vetoed something like this last year. The shortage of funds in nursing homes has been devestating.
And, lastly, the one thing we never thought a Republican governor would say:
Those are my tax increases. I won't run away from them.
This budget is pretty no-nonsense, and is a good example of why I like Rell. Nothing flashy here, no Adriean's Landing-type wastes of money and time, no huge spending increases, no draconian cuts (that we know of). There will be modifications, I'm sure, and lots of political posturing by both sides, but the legislature ought to get this one done on time.