Liberal Democrats want more tax hikes on the rich in final crafting of state budget

From Harford Courant.

As lawmakers scramble to finish a budget in the final full week of the legislative session, some liberal Democrats are concerned negotiators are not proposing enough tax hikes on the rich as they seek compromise with Gov. Ned Lamont.

Negotiators have agreed on the outlines of a plan that rejects a 2 percentage point surcharge on investment income of the wealthy after Lamont drew a line in the sand against the hike. In return, Lamont is dropping requests for a new tax on sugary beverages, as well as requiring cities and towns to pay part of the costs of teachers’ pensions.

But with plans for raising $262 million from the investment income tax increase dropped, some liberals say there are not enough taxes on the rich in the proposed budget. Lawmakers are calling for raising about $50 million per year in pass-through entity taxes, which are largely paid by wealthy business owners, and an additional conveyance tax on homes that sell for more than $2.5 million.

“It’s not enough,” said Rep. Anne Hughes, co-chair of the House Democratic Progressive Caucus. “It’s not even close to a fair and equitable budget. Houston, we have a problem. Where’s the rest of the revenue?”

See the complete article from Hartford Courant online.

Weekend closure and detour of I-95 in Stamford begins May 31

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is reminding motorists that the first of two scheduled weekend closures and detours of I-95 in Stamford at Exit 9 is set to begin on Friday, May 31, 2019.  The closures are necessary to facilitate the installation of two new bridge structures carrying Route 1 over I-95.

Motorists are strongly advised to avoid the area during the closure timeframes to avoid heavy traffic delays.

Closure Details

The first weekend closure will occur on Friday, May 31, 2019:

  • 6 PM – Exit 9 on-ramps closed and Route 1 reduced to one lane
  • 9 PM – Closure of the off-ramps and the closure of Route 1 at the bridge (between Courtland and Seaside Avenues)
  • 11PM – I-95 will be closed at Exit 9, with traffic diverted to temporary roadways using the highway on and off-ramps

Both I-95 and Route 1 will be re-opened to traffic by 5 AM on Monday, June 3.

The second scheduled weekend closure will occur on Friday, June 7, 2019, following the same pattern used for the first closure, with Route 1 and I-95 re-opened by 5 AM on Monday, June 10.

Construction Update

The two new bridge spans have been completely formed and are ready for installation. Six hundred and twenty-eight cubic yards of concrete weighing over 1.5 million pounds was used to build the two bridge spans. About 32 miles of rebar was installed within the newly constructed bridge spans, and new structural steel was used to create the new bridge superstructures.  Each individual span to be lifted and set into place weighs between approximately 1.6 million pounds, and 1.8 million pounds.

In the two weeks leading up the closures, the contractor will be busy preparing the site as well as equipment that will be used to move the bridge spans into place.

There will be live streaming video feeds of construction during the weekends when the bridge is installed on the project website, www.i95exit9.com.

Trump tells Democrats to pass new NAFTA before infrastructure

From Bloomberg.

President Donald Trump told Democratic congressional leaders on the eve of a White House meeting to discuss restoring the nation’s infrastructure that he first wanted them to pass his replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,” Trump wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday. “It will replace the job killing Nafta, one of the worst trade deals ever entered into by our nation.”

“Once Congress has passed USMCA,” Trump continued, “we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package.”

The White House, which this week removed steel and aluminum tariffs imposed on Canada and Mexico a year ago, wants to build momentum to pass the accord, a major goal of the president as his re-election campaign gets underway.

Pelosi has said that she wants to support the deal, but has demanded changes that would strengthen labor and environmental protections and ensure enforcement of the agreement.

See the complete article from Bloomberg online.

New look at what tolls would mean for Connecticut drivers

Excerpt from CT Post.

“Our plan, we think is the best value for Connecticut drivers,” Lemar said, detailing several months of negotiations with the state DOT, as well as federal highway authorities for months, with focus on strategic investments. “We feel pretty proud of the product that we have. If you are commuting every day as a Connecticut driver, going to and from work, we think you should be paying a little bit less.”

“The other states are soaking out-of-state drivers,” said House Majority Leader Matt Ritter. “That’s exactly what they do. The cost sometimes is $20 to go over a bridge. Every other state is doing that except Connecticut.” He said that Connecticut’s bill is likely to be the most-comprehensive package on tolling in the nation as it aims at generating $700 million a year in revenue.

“What all other states have done in the last 10 years when they passed a tolling program legislatively, they just create a framework where DOT negotiates with federal highway authorities,” Lemar said. “We’re saying is that that’s not good enough. In Connecticut we want to know the details up front.”

Driver choices, with higher prices during morning and afternoon commuter hours, would potentially discourage some drivers, including interstate truckers. “Frankly this drives consumer choices,” Lemar said. “Like a lot of the trucks that we find on our roadways at 8:30 in the morning traveling along congested highways should be making a better and smarter business choice about when they’re on the roads.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said because the plan would not affect highway congestion, he believes that federal authorities are unlikely to okay it.

“There is nothing in this working draft to indicate that it will gain approval from the Federal Highway Administration,” he said, stressing that the plan seems to be driven by raising money, not reducing traffic congestion as required by the FHWA.

See complete article from CT Post online.

Anti-toll group delivers 100,000 petition signatures to Lamont

Excerpt from Yankee Institute article.

Joseph Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, which represents the trucking industry, said his group also opposes tolls on Connecticut’s highways.

“The current toll proposals will be a huge cost burden on small businesses in Connecticut,” Sculley said. “In a state that is struggling with small, medium and large-sized businesses, this is going to affect all of them, but particularly small businesses, the hardest.”

Sculley said the trucking industry won’t be able to absorb the added cost of tolls and the expense will be passed down to consumers, driving up the price of goods in the state. He added that one of his members estimated tolls would actually double their tax burden in a single year.

Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, which recently spent $900,000 on television advertisements supporting tolls, said he thinks No Tolls CT is “doing a wonderful job with their campaign.”

To see the complete article from Yankee Institute.

Lamont: $213M project will ease Hartford highway backups

From Hartford Business Journal.

Gov. Ned Lamont said work began this week on a $213 million state highway project aimed at easing congestion on an exit connecting Interstate 91 to the Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford.

The state Department of Transportation earlier this week launched a “congestion-buster project” that will lead to the development of a new two-lane exit ramp from I-91 northbound to the Charter Oak Bridge, leading to Routes 5 and 15, and I-84. The project is slated for completion by summer 2022.

To accommodate construction of the new lanes, crews will need to widen northbound I-91 from exit 27 to exit 29 for approximately 5,700 feet to allow space for the additional travel lane.

That will also require the widening of the Charter Oak Bridge over Route 15, the Airport Road on-ramp and Airport Road, in addition to lowering the roads below all three bridges to provide space for overhead clearances.

Construction of a new two-lane exit also requires: construction of a new bridge; widening a piece of the northbound Charter Oak Bridge over I-91 to four northbound travel lanes; and the removal of the current single-lane ramp at exit 29.

The project also requires widening of northbound Route 15 to add an additional lane from the existing bridge to the Silver Lane underpass in East Hartford and widening of the bridges hovering over Main Street and Silver Lane.

See the complete article from Hartford Business Journal online.

FMCSA seeks public comment on pilot program to allow drivers ages 18-20 to operate CMVs in interstate commerce

From FMCSA.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced that it is seeking public comment on a potential pilot program that would allow drivers ages 18-20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce.

“Commercial trucks and buses are essential to a thriving national economy, and the Department wants to ensure the public has an opportunity to comment on this important potential change,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Drivers ages 18-20 may currently only operate CMVs in intrastate commerce.  In July 2018, USDOT announced https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/new-usdot-pilot-program-provides-boost-military-recruitment the details of the Commercial Driver Pilot Program required under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which allows certain 18- to 20-year-olds with military training to operate CMVs in interstate commerce.

Today’s action requests comments on a second pilot program to allow non-military drivers ages 18-20 to operate CMVs in interstate commerce.  FMCSA requests comments on the training, qualifications, driving limitations, and vehicle safety systems that FMCSA should consider in developing options or approaches for a second pilot program for younger drivers.

“We want input from the public on efforts that offer the potential to create more jobs in the commercial motor vehicle industry, while maintaining the highest level of safety.  We encourage all CMV stakeholders to submit comments on a potential interstate pilot program for younger drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez.

The Federal Register Notice, including how to submit comments, is available online.

In Waterford, I-395 Northbound closure planned

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is announcing that activities related to the rehabilitation of Bridge No. 00255, I-395 over Route 85 in the town of Waterford are expected to cause significant delays. The work is tentatively scheduled to occur between Friday May 31, 2019 and Monday June 10, 2019.

Motorists are advised to avoid the impacted area during the 10-day timeframe.

Lane Closures

I-395 Northbound @ Exit 2

Closure and detour is scheduled to occur between 6 p.m. on Friday, May 31 and 6 p.m. on Monday, June 10.

I-395 Northbound traffic will be detoured off mainline I-395 at Exit 2.

Traffic will travel across Route 85 to Exit 2 on ramp and back onto I-395 Northbound.  The intersection will be signalized with police assistance.

I-395 Southbound will not be affected during this timeframe.

More information, including maps of the detour and diversion routes, is available as a PDF document.

Three weeks until bridge is installed on Route 1 over I-95 at Exit 9, Stamford

In three weeks, the first of two bridge spans on Route 1 (East Main Street) over I-95 at Exit 9 in Stamford will be moved and set in place. On Friday, May 31 at 11 p.m., I-95 motorists will be detoured onto 2-lane temporary roads in each direction while construction is underway. Earlier in the evening, Route 1 traffic will also be detoured around the work site onto local roads. I-95 and Route 1 will reopen to through traffic by 5 a.m. Monday, June 3rd. The following week Friday, June 7, beginning at 11 p.m., the second bridge span will be installed as traffic is detoured again around the construction zone.

See www.i95exit9.com for more information, including photos showing construction in progress.

Builders, trades, launch new ad to push for tolls in Connecticut

From CT Mirror.

A coalition of construction businesses and trades launched a new television and online advertising campaign Tuesday that makes a pitch for electronic tolling to refinance a critical rebuild of Connecticut’s highways, bridges and rail lines.

First established last spring to support tolls, the Move CT Forward coalition is renewing its efforts as legislators near a conclusion on this year’s transportation financing debate.

“With tolls, trucks and out of state drivers will pay more, we will pay less,” the narrator of the ad states. “And taxpayers will get a break. Connecticut needs to fix our roads now, our families’ safety depends on it.”

Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed establishing electronic tolls on Interstates 84, 91 and 95 and on the Merritt Parkway. Lamont estimates tolls could raise $800 million per year and as much as 40 percent of revenues could come from out-of-state motorists.

See complete article from CT Mirror online.