Making Democracy Work

Brenda L Kupchick


Brenda L Kupchick

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LWVFF - Do you support either in-person early voting and/or expanded use of absentee ballot (mail-in) voting? Why or why not?
BLK - I support ensuring all citizens are able to vote in our elections. I would consider supporting "in person early voting" for residents that may have difficulty getting to the polls on election day, as long as safe guards and protocols are clearly defined across the state. The integrity of elections are vital to our democracy and must be protected. I also support no excuse absentee voting, but I believe if Connecticut's chooses to expand the use of absentee ballots there must be process of ensuring those ballots are secure.

LWVFF - Will you sponsor or support legislation to require disclosure of campaign-related activities by PACs, SuperPACs, and other "dark money" organizations?
BLK - I support efforts to make our elections and campaign finance more transparent and have and will continue to support legislation that requires such disclosures. Connecticut's campaign finance laws when passed were the strictest in the nation. Unfortunately, our laws have been weakened by allowing donors to funnel money into legislative and state races that diminishes the original intent of Connecticut's campaign finance legislation. For example, legislators and parties create PACs to funnel money into races. Bottom line, allowing loopholes to exist have weakened Connecticut's clean election laws.

LWVFF - Since all of the states that border CT now charge tolls or user fees for the use of their highways or bridges, should CT install electronic tolls? If so, how should that revenue be used?
BLK - The toll issue is complicated. Connecticut receives 655 million a year from the feds because we don't have tolls. We also receive 40 million from truckers because they are required to log their miles and pay CT a fee for miles travelled on our highways. We also are not allowed to install border tolls per the feds and even if we could, DOT data shows less than 40% of cars on our highways are from out of state.

Last year, the toll proposals were all over the map that weren't called for a vote because they couldn't gain enough support, even from the majority.

I believe that one of the core functions of government is to maintain our infrastructure and, at first glance, charging motorists for using our highways in order to maintain them makes some sense. Many out-of-state drivers use our roads, plus, there is the inescapable reality that Connecticut is mired in this historic financial crisis for the foreseeable future.

While all of that may be true, before the legislature starts fantasizing about how they would spend all of this magical toll money, we have to first evaluate how we spend the money we already have. A 2016 study by the Reason Foundation found that Connecticut ranked 44th in cost effectiveness for highway performance + we spend nearly $480,000 for each mile of road in this state as opposed to the national average, which is just over $180,000 per mile. Why is it that we pay such a premium on transportation yet we have some of the worst roads in the country? Taking a closer look at our spending, we find that one of the black holes into which this money sinks is in the realm of administrative costs. The Reason Foundation reports that Connecticut spent more than $83,000 per mile in administrative costs, compared with $10,000 nationally, while taxpaying commuters sit in daily traffic on our antiquated highways. Administrative costs clearly diminish the return on our transportation investment. Connecticut still outspends the national average by $250,000 per mile. That's because what we do spend is too often on ill-advised projects.

During the last seven years, Connecticut spent $567 million on a new busway from New Britain to Hartford that costs $17.5 million to operate each year, and whose light ridership has left observers confused as to why government would fund such a pointless project. Another example is the more than $1 billion spent on the Hartford to Springfield rail line, which is projected to cost $27 million each year to operate. Frustratingly, the $155 million the state bonded for this project in 2016 would have covered almost all of the costs for repairs needed to the Metro-North New Haven Line. Compounding high administrative costs and misguided projects is the legislature's periodic raiding of the Special Transportation Fund to balance its budget. Since 2000, approximately $160 million has been raided and swept into the General Fund, leaving the STF $46 million in debt. Without a true "lockbox," the legislature has proven itself willing to spend STF monies on whatever it wishes.

I believe before we consider inflicting a de facto tax increase on our residents + which tolls absolutely would represent + there must be a serious reevaluation of how Connecticut prioritizes infrastructure projects and how costs of these projects are calculated. Without examining excessive operating costs, rejecting ineffective projects, and committing to an unbreakable lockbox, installing tolls would just capture more taxpayer dollars that would increase an average commuters cost between $3,000 to $5,000 a year and even more for business that have employees traveling in state.

Unfortunately, the ballot resolution this November will include a lockbox provision that doesn't protect the funds in a manner citizens would consider a truly locked Special Transportation fund "lockbox".

LWVFF - If elected would you support establishing an independent citizens redistricting commission--similar to California's-- to draw legislative district lines after the next census? Would you support open meetings and public hearing by CT's redistricting commission?
BLK - I support any and all efforts that ensure a fair and impartial process for drawing legislative district lines in accordance with the census data.

The questions above have been created by the League of Women Voters of Fairfield.

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