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May 30th, 2017

For Immediate Release
For More Information Contact:
Kim Stevenson, communications
Kim.Stevenson@state.de.us 302-744-4293

Saving the Transportation Trust Fund

The “Lock Box” is finally in place to protect Delaware’s Transportation Trust Fund, a goal Senator Greg Lavelle has worked to achieve for almost four years.
With SB 20 passing the House on May 18, a Constitutional Amendment was put in place to protect the fund used to build and repair roads and other transportation issues in Delaware.

“The issue of putting additional expenses into the TTF is almost as old as the fund itself. I’m glad in working with my Senate and House colleagues that we were able to get wide bi-partisan support for this. We still need to remain vigilant, but this “lock box” is a meaningful tool and reform,” said Lavelle (R-Sharpley). Lavelle pursued the route of creating the constitutional amendment for the “lock box” to require a supermajority vote to overcome it.

The amendment is explicit that from now on funds from the trust fund cannot be used for anything other than transportation – capital expenditures, interest and principal on bond issues, and other transportation-related purposes (including operating expenses). Adding new expenses to trust fund will now requires a three-fourths vote from each House and it must be done through a bill separate from an annual budget act, bond and capital improvement act, or grant-in-aid act. In the past, the trust was by-passed by using epilogue language in the annual budget. In the past, the trust was by-passed by using epilogue language in the annual budget.

The Transportation Trust Fund is funded through monies raised as gas taxes, Division of Motor Vehicle fees and tolls as well as Federal funding. It was originally intended to build and improve roads. For more than 20 years, additional expenses have been added to the fund, such as operating expenses for the Department of Transportation and the Division of Motor Vehicles. Currently, nearly one-third of the approximately $900 million funds raised annually, goes to operating funds and debt service.

“This reduces money to improve and build roads,” said Lavelle. The next goal is to start moving operating funds out of the trust fund once again. Given the state’s current budget challenges, Senator Lavelle sees the difficulty in achieving this goal in the short term.

The amendment does not need to be signed by the Governor to be enacted. To create a constitutional amendment, a bill has to pass in two consecutive general assemblies with the exact same wording, and thus needs broad support in both Houses. Representative Deborah Hudson, was one of the lead sponsors for Lavelle’s bill in the House.

“This legislation has been a long time coming. For a number of years now many of us in the legislature have worked to secure a mechanism by which state funding that is collected for road improvements are, in fact, being used for those purposes,” said Hudson (R-Fairthorne). “By enacting this bill, we have taken a big step toward making government more accountable to the citizens it serves.”

“This amendment represents both common sense and good government,” said Cathy Rossi, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “AAA applauds our lawmakers for protecting drivers in the First State. This ensures our roads and bridges will continue to have constitutionally dedicated funding through the Transportation Trust Fund, which makes sense for taxpayers and the roads we drive on every day.”

“This is smart public policy,” said Senator Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown). “The Transportation Trust Fund is a trust fund. It’s supposed to be used only for those necessary transportation costs for our infrastructure. The previous practice of moving money to help pay for other expenses was done so in emergency situations but the ‘emergency situations’ ended up being more practice more than anything This ensures the trust fund as it is set up will be used for those infrastructure projects, those road projects that we need for safe travels for all Delawareans.”