In a concerted effort to stop the CT Department of Transportation’s proposal to raise Metro-North fares by 5-percent this December, State Rep. Gail Lavielle–joined by several of her Republican colleagues–testified at the public hearing held Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the UConn Stamford Campus Auditorium.
“I am here for my constituents today,” said Lavielle. “Commuters aren’t getting anything back from these increases. Instead, it’s a deficiency in the state budget that the public is being asked to pay for.”
The other House Republican legislators who testified included state representatives Brenda Kupchick, Laura Devlin, Mike Bocchino, Dave Rutigliano, Fred Camillo, and J.P. Sredzinski.
Over the last few weeks, the legislators have met with early morning rail commuters on the train station platforms and riding the trains, and speaking with them about the unfair increase. At the public hearing, Lavielle and House legislative colleagues presented signed petitions containing more than 1,700 signatures of constituents who join in the opposition to the proposed hikes.
At the public hearing, Lavielle presented a letter (reprinted in full, below) addressed to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, legislative leaders and CTDOT commissioner James Redeker to Commissioner Redeker following her testimony. In the letter, Lavielle and 17 other House Republican legislators write about their objection to the proposed fare hike, explaining that rail commuters are being “forced to pay for gaps in the state budget that was passed by the legislative majority this spring.”
The letter stated, “The increase is unfair, and it is unnecessary. In a year when majority legislators and the administration have insisted that the state budget includes no new taxes, it imposes a new tax on one group of people who, as a result, have no choice but to spend more money just to be able to go to work.”
The lawmakers explain in the letter that the DOT acknowledged from the start that the proposed fare increase has nothing to do with either service improvements or cost increases, but rather, is due exclusively to a $37 million cut to the agency’s budget as a direct consequence of the 2017 budget passed by the legislative majority last May.
Lavielle also noted during her testimony (also reprinted in full, below) that rather than merely objecting, the group of 18 House lawmakers is also offering alternatives for consideration in place of the fare hikes on rail commuters. Among their suggestions is eliminating the tax exemption on the sale of tickets to events at the XL Center in Hartford, the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, and the Harbor Yard Ballpark in Bridgeport. Lavielle added, “Recreational activities are optional, but for these rail commuters, taking the train to work is not an option, and they are hostages to this steep 5-percent increase.”
Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and a member of the Appropriations and Transportation Committees.