Lamont: A few giant infrastructure projects beat lots of small ones

As Connecticut contemplates how it could benefit from President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday he thinks the money should be spent on a handful of large-scale projects that would transform the state rather than a lot of small ones.

“I have 169 towns. I don’t want 169 earmarks. I don’t want this money to be spread around like peanut butter,” Lamont said Thursday on a webinar with The Washington Post. “I want to have five or six really important, transformative things that we do, starting with our transportation infrastructure, starting with our kids, starting with free day care to allow women to get back into the workforce.”

Lamont did not mention specific projects. But as the federal bill takes shape, hundreds of ideas and requests are pouring in — from the Hartford highway tunnel system for tens of billions of dollars put forth by U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1, to a list of 24 projects in eastern Connecticut totaling $340 million, which state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and House members, sent to U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

Lamont has made his own push to revamp Connecticut’s aging highways, bridges and rail lines, most notably using the highway tolls he campaigned on but failed to get passed. The governor is now pushing a truck tax that’s much smaller than his ill-fated tolls proposals.

In the view of many Democrats, including Lamont and Biden, “infrastructure” includes social, health and educational services, not just construction projects — thus, Lamont’s comment about child care. Biden intends to follow the infrastructure bill with his American Families Plan in mid-April, which would focus on child care, education, and health care costs.

That plan will likely make community college free, implement universal prekindergarten and a federal paid family and medical leave program, DeLauro told Hearst Connecticut Media this week.

Biden’s infrastructure plan is unlikely to win Republican support in Congress given how the president intends to pay for it: corporate taxes.

Asked about this, given Connecticut has some of the highest earning Americans living within its borders, Lamont said,“a lot of our corporate citizens understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

But he added, “I just don’t want that money to be wasted ...I want to make sure that we make really strategic investments.”

An early supporter of Biden’s candidacy, Lamont said Biden “put a way to pay for this on the table.”

“If Congress wants to come back and thinks a carbon tax or a mileage fee is a better way to do it, step forward,” the governor said.