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Conn. Transportation Advocate Blasts New Budget For Diverting Funds

Emergency Work Snarled Traffic For 19 Miles Tuesday Morning
Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford (file / Used with permission of the Connecticut General Assembly and the League of Women Voters of Connecticut Education Fund, Inc.)

Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford (file / Used with permission of the Connecticut General Assembly and the League of Women Voters of Connecticut Education Fund, Inc.)

HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – There were massive backups on Interstate 95 from Stamford to Bridgeport during the Tuesday morning rush hour.

As WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reported, the 19-mile backup into the city came just hours after state lawmakers voted to divert nearly $76 million from the state transportation fund to balance the newly approved budget deal.

Emergency work on a highway bridge led to the closure of three of the four southbound lanes. Some commuters spent two hours sitting on the highway.

Transportation expert Jim Cameron said the money should have been left in place for road and rail repairs.

“If we get huge, day-long traffic jams on 95, if we get collisions and derailments that cut the Northeast Corridor for days on end, people are not going to live in Connecticut. They’re going to move. They’re going to take their tax dollars with them,” Cameron told Schneidau. “There were several bills introduced this year that would have stopped the raiding of the transportation fund, but they never got out of committee or they never saw the light of day in the legislature.”

Cameron added that could turn Connecticut into the economic cul-de-sac that some have predicted.

Lawmakers gave final legislative approval Monday to a proposed $44 billion two-year state budget that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy acknowledged is not perfect but shows the state has gotten its “priorities straight.”

The budget bill narrowly passed the Senate by a 19-17 margin, with three Democrats joining Republicans in opposition, and now awaits Malloy’s signature.

Republican senators maintained the budget agreement reached by the Democratic governor and majority Democratic leaders of the General Assembly does not help the state recover from the recession. They said the state continues to trail other states seeing economic improvements, including New York and Massachusetts.

“We are going the wrong way. We were going the wrong way two years ago,” said Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, referring to the last budget that relied on higher taxes to help cover a massive budget deficit. “We continue to go the wrong way now despite the many warnings from the many people.”

But Democrats touted how the budget doesn’t include major cuts in aid to cities and towns, which they said could have resulted in higher local property taxes. The legislators faced projected deficits of $1.5 billion in the first year and $1.35 billion in the second.

Part of the bill also authorizes the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to introduce Keno, a lottery-type game played in other states.

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