In a March 11th op-ed For the Connecticut Post, Senator Christine Cohen, D-Guilford wrote, “All receipts [Transportation and Climate Initiative] will be deposited in the locker of the Special Transportation Fund to be invested in reducing transport emissions. “
Similarly, Energy and Environment Commissioner Katie Dykes said in an interview with that the STF’s constitutional locker protects TCI funds from legislative raids CT mirror.
However, given the legislative language or the governor’s budget proposal, these claims are not entirely accurate.
The transport and climate protection initiative would oblige gasoline producers and wholesalers to purchase carbon credits at auction. The proceeds of the auction will be passed on to participating states to invest in green energy, climate justice and public transportation.
The state expects the program to raise between $ 80 million and $ 110 million annually, but the funds will not be put into the special transportation fund, according to the governor’s proposed budget and legislative language.
TCI funds are deposited into a separate dedicated fund set up under the umbrella of the Transportation Grants and Restricted Funds Account.
According to the approval invoice, TCI funds are paid into a transport and climate account that “has been set up by the Comptroller as a separate non-expiring account within the Transport Grant and Restricted Accounts Fund”.
According to State statuteThe Fund for Transportation Grants and Restricted Accounts contains all transportation funds that are restricted, not available for general use and previously reported in the Special Transportation Fund as “federal and other grants”. The Comptroller is authorized to make the necessary remittances to ensure that, notwithstanding any provisions of the general bylaws, all transportation funds that are restricted and not available for general use are included in the Transportation Grant Fund and Restricted Accounts Fund. “
The enabling legislation – Governor’s Bill 884 – expressly points out that income from TCI auction sales are “not considered as pledged income” to the STF.
In the governor’s transport budget, TCI funds are not listed as income in the special transport fund, but as a cost reduction, as TCI funds would be used to supplement the costs of public transport.
From the governor’s budget proposal
Starting in 2023, Lamont’s budget shows a spending reduction of $ 24.3 million, increasing to $ 69 million by 2026. No changes in income due to the inclusion of TCI funds are listed in the STF.
The TCI revenues are invested by both the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection with the approval of the Office of Politics and Administration.
On the recommendation of an equity advisory board, 35 percent of the TCI funds are invested “in such a way that communities that are overloaded by air pollution or are undersupplied by the transport system are ensured”. The Equity Board consists of stakeholders selected by the commissioners of DOT and DEEP.
The law also stipulates that a maximum of 5 percent of the proceeds will be used for government administration costs to help Connecticut meet its goal of reducing emissions to 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050.
Why it matters
Claims that TCI proceeds go to the Special Transportation Fund are intended to reassure the public that the money they are paying for higher gasoline costs is actually being used for the intended purpose of lowering vehicle emissions and other climate protection initiatives.
The money in the special transportation fund is protected by the constitutional locker approved by voters in 2018 and prevents lawmakers from sweeping funds out of the STF to fill budget gaps in the general fund and ensure the money is spent on roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure becomes .
However, the locker does not prevent the diversion of funds to flow into the STF, as demonstrated by Governor Lamont’s Redirecting sales tax revenue from the STF in 2019 and 2020.
Connecticut’s long history of sweeping money from earmarked funds to fill budget gaps is well documented and gives cause for concern that TCI funds are also being used for things that are outside of their intended purpose.
TCI earnings are not pledged to the Special Transportation Fund, but rather transferred to a new dedicated account. A significant part of the proceeds will be used for environmentally and climate-friendly goals, while the remaining funds will offset the costs of public transport.
According to state law, money in the STF is “spent exclusively for transport purposes”. Since the TCI proceeds are not used exclusively for transport purposes, the funds have their own account. The Connecticut Department of Transportation states that the Transportation Grant and Restricted Fund account has the same locker protection as the STF.
However, as has been shown in the past, the STF’s locker protection can be bypassed by diverting funds from a future governor or lawmaker. The fact that the transport and climate account has locker protection also means that it is subject to the same loopholes.