For the second consecutive day, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican gubernatorial candidate John McKinney clashed Friday over the state budget and funding for transportation projects.
The dust-up started Thursday when McKinney criticized Malloy after a 118-year-old railroad bridge in Norwalk, known as the Walk Bridge, delayed Metro-North commuters because it was stuck in the “up” position and would not close properly. McKinney blasted Malloy for “sweeping” money out of the state’s special transportation fund in order to help balance the general fund budget, but Malloy’s spokesman said that McKinney didn’t know what he was talking about on the budget.
“To the governor’s comment that I don’t understand the budget, I’m ready to challenge him to a debate on the budget any time – any place,” McKinney said Friday.
When told of McKinney’s remarks, Malloy responded, “I’m sure Senator McKinney would enjoy a debate, and I’m sure we’ll have one if he wins the primary. The reality is the state of Connecticut puts more revenue into transportation than that which is generated by the gas tax. That’s the fact. … They want to ignore it, but that’s the reality.”
He added, “Since I became governor, we have increased infrastructure spending related to transportation by 165 percent.”
“With respect to the bridge, if he had picked up the phone and called me, I would have told him that it is our priority with respect to [federal] Sandy relief money … and that specifically I traveled and had a conversation in Washington with the Secretary of Transportation concerning the Walk Bridge specifically in the last couple of weeks,” Malloy said. “If he had asked – but he didn’t – and I’m not surprised because he’s running for office.”
But McKinney says that the state needs to spend more money on its aging transportation infrastructure.
“The reality is this governor has raided nearly $190 million from the Special Transportation Fund since he took office,” McKinney said. “He uses the money not to fix ancient bridges, or cracked rail lines, but to fill gaping holes in the state budget. Where are his priorities? It is clear he believes throwing half a billion federal dollars at a busway to nowhere is important. Those federal dollars should have been invested in our aging rail system – again priorities.”
“Did the governor pass legislation banning future reductions or direct sweeps from the STF?” McKinney asked. “Did he put back the money he took from the fund to balance the budget? No – the reality is – he did neither.”
“As recently as May 4, Malloy took an additional $2 million that was supposed to be spent on transportation issues and chose to pay other bills. Certainly he can understand why commuters are upset. And don’t take my word for it. The sweeps of the special transportation fund are in section 54 of the budget bill – House Bill 5596.”
But Malloy’s press office strongly disputed McKinney’s numbers, handing out a sheet that totaled $1.365 billion over four fiscal years that was transferred from the general fund into the special transportation fund.
Sen. L. Scott Frantz, the ranking Republican on the legislature’s finance committee, said, “While the administration says that they restored and bolstered transportation funding, they are only telling a half-truth. In reality, funding has simply been moved around. Some money was put into the STF, while other funds were simultaneously diverted to other projects. The end result is a loss of vital funding that was meant to support transportation projects across the state.”