Harp: No On Lockbox

Thomas Breen PhotoMayor Toni Harp supports more state funding for transportation. She doesn’t want to create a “lockbox” to do it.

Harp offered that view on an election-eve episode of WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program.

On the program, she was asked about whether she supports a referendum question on Tuesday’s ballot to create a constitutional “lockbox” that would dedicate revenues raised from the gas tax and motor vehicles fines solely to transportation spending. It would be placed in a virtual “lockbox” that legislators wouldn’t be able to use for other purposes.

Advocates for investing in rebuilding roads and bridges and improving train and bus service are supporting a “yes” vote. They argue it will create public confidence by ensuring that the money would be used for that intended purpose and therefore enable the state to make much-needed transit upgrades.

Harp said she supports improved transit. But she argued that “lockboxes” limit legislators’ options when they have to make tough choices at budget time — when, perhaps, a more pressing need presents itself and there’s not enough money for every worthwhile use.

Harp, who for 11 years co-chaired the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, argued that the referendum question if approved, “would take away the responsibility that we’ve given to our legislature to make those decisions on our behalf based on what is happening when they pass that budget. ... You’re really tying the hands and you’re absolving the legislature of the responsibility of doing the work.”

“That’s why we elect people to go the legislature. They are there in real time making real decisions based on what they think their constitutions need and want,” Harp said.

In response to a caller’s question, Harp reminded voters to turn over their ballots Tuesday so they can vote for state constitutional offices like comptroller, secretary of the state, attorney general, treasurer. The options for those offices will be placed on the back of New Haven’s ballot.

Each city has a different ballot; New Haven’s has races on both sides this year rather than one side. That has raised concerns that many voters won’t notice and turn the page over to complete their ballots.

Harp said she shares that concern.

“It’s an easy thing to forget. That will absolutely suppress the vote for the constitutional officers,” she said.

She said she hopes that poll workers remind all voters Tuesday about the double-sided ballots when voters sign in. After the election, she said, “we’re going to have to see how many votes fall off because we did it that way and have a conversation” if results show a drop-off in voting for races on the back.

Local city clerks design local ballots; then the secretary of the state’s office approves the designs. Secretary of the State spokesperson Gabe Rosenberg said local elections officials were asked during a pre-election conference call to remind voters on Tuesday about two-sided ballots.

“I haven’t heard concerns per se, especially since there are towns with two-sided ballots (because of local referenda) almost every election with statewide offices. Also, the instruction to turn the ballot over is big and bold,” Rosenberg stated. (View New Haven’s ballot here.)

Click on the Facebook Live video to watch the full episode of WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program. On the program, she expressed interest in a propopsal by caller Rodney Williams to pursue taxation on vehicles with out-of-state plates that are stored and rented from New Haven U-Haul outlets.

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.

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posted by: Noteworthy on November 5, 2018  5:15pm

Poster Child Notes:

1. If there is a poster child for irresponsible spending, overriding taxpayer needs and ignoring smart state and local budgets - It’s Toni Harp.

2. She famously said the cap on state spending voters approved when agreeing to an income tax - should be and could be ignored whenever she wanted because she and the legislature hadn’t also approved it.

3. The reason we are even discussing a lockbox is because of legislators like Toni Harp, Toni Walker, Robyn Porter and Gary Winfield -people who think it’s fine to skim the clean energy fund, the license plate fund, transportation funds - ignore mandates and reasons for the tax - in order to spend the money elsewhere.

4. One need only look at the city’s budget - and Harp’s divisive, destructive and disingenuous manipulative reallocation of scarce resources to her own designs - pay raises for her pals; expensive trips, hotels, meals, coffee, limos, steaks, jets, clothes for her employees and more.

5. Toni Harp has never liked lockboxes or limits on her spending - but those lockboxes were designed for people exactly like her. Voters should ignore what she says.

posted by: boxerct on November 5, 2018  5:52pm


We should absolutely not ignore what Mayor Harp has to say.  We should instead, listen carefully, and then do the opposite.  I know that I intend to.

posted by: FacChec on November 5, 2018  6:26pm

Mayor Harp should implement the lock box practice in New Haven and stop advocating more deficit spending at the state level. She should immediately entertaining the idea of locking down the illegal Charter busting practice of reselling refunding bonds to pay off past and current debt run up by the city and the BOE, on her watch.
She should lock down her own Rainey day fund which fluctuates between zero and the current alleged $2M.

While she is at it, how about putting a lock on the city’s bond fund which now exceeds the annual bond payments. While at the same time, overall city debt is exceeding $1.66B, according to last year’s audit.

Harp opposes securing transportation and infrastructure funds, while:

“Advocates for investing in rebuilding roads and bridges and improving train and bus service are supporting a “yes” vote. They argue it will create public confidence by ensuring that the money would be used for that intended purpose and therefore enable the state to make much-needed transit upgrades.”

Notice: Harp gave no information as to what side of the ballot the referendum is on

The Mayor just can’t get her message and priorities together.

posted by: LookOut on November 5, 2018  7:14pm

Not to belittle NHI, but this is barely news.  Of course, Harp, with her history of raiding every account in the city and state that she could get her hands on, would be against financial controls.  BOXERCT has a great idea - if you don’t have time to research the detail, supporting the opposite of Harp is a very safe bet.

posted by: citoyen on November 5, 2018  8:00pm

Noteworthy nails it on the head. As soon as I saw the headline to this article, my first thought was, “This is exact confirmation of all Noteworthy’s been saying for years! Of course Toni Harp opposes a lockbox! She herself wants to be free to spend whatever she likes, however she likes!”

The real scandal is how public and unashamed it all is. Or maybe the real scandal is her cynical portrayal of legislators (read: herself) as potentially poor victims with their hands tied, just trying to do their jobs.

This is what happens to a politician who’s the product of a city where one political party rules, where a political and economic power structure is entrenched, and where there is no meaningful political opposition.

posted by: Dennis Serf on November 5, 2018  8:09pm

Harp appears to be against any initiative that limits spending and taxation.

Dennis Serfilippi

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 5, 2018  8:19pm

I support the lock box. But Mayor Harp is correct that it will tie legislators’ hands. The legislature periodically faces the conundrum of raising state taxes or cutting programs, which often results in higher property taxes. One way the legislature mitigates this situation is diverting revenues in the Special Transportation Fund. Once this option is foreclosed, it will become even more painful to balance the budget.

posted by: 1644 on November 6, 2018  8:16am

Kevin;  Tying legislators’ hand is precisely the point.  Certain levies garnered support based on the premise that they would be used for certain, politically popular uses.  For the most part, these are things the suburban middle class values:  e.g.,  clean energy,  good roads,  parks and open space.  When legislators divert these revenues to other, less popular uses, e.g., minority teacher recruitment,  trips to China, coffee for the mayor, they are avoiding the hard choices they were elected to make and breaking faith with the voters.

posted by: dad101 on November 6, 2018  9:39am

Ms Harp its not tying hands its called making responisble decissions and doing your job. Reality check we have had six gas tax increasesunder the premise that it was to fix ourr roads and bridges and guess what you ELECTED officials did everything but that with the resources. We were given a state income tax under the premise that itw ould resolve our financial despair and we would only need it for a few short years instead we are in a worse position than we were prior because the leecred officials did everything excpet what they were supposed to do with the resources. A lock box is the tax payers way of holding yout to your job ..Yes you have to make tough decisions but putting people in harms way intentionally isn’t ok either. What happens when a bridge collapse, a chunk of over pass falls or a road defect kills someone as they drive? do they get to sue you personally for not using the funds that were raised to make sure those repairs are done? The answer is no! Our taxes are not your personal wish list atm…despite what you believe> You give raises as tokens of friendship, you make your staff wear uniforms because you dont like their style of clothing, you allow the least competant to raise to the top of your food chain…You didnt do us a favor by spending fireman’s budget money you did something on your personal wish list.. You werent worried about budgets as you jet set and wine and dine so stop the nonsense choice is doing the right thing or getting the door shown to you..start packing!!!!!!!

posted by: ctddw on November 6, 2018  12:10pm

Part of your job is to create and stick to a budget. A lock box will make sure your fingers don’t do the walking. I’m all for it.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 7, 2018  2:24pm

I thought it was interesting that at my polling place (Barnard School), the two ballot initiatives were posted—one very clearly, the other one, not so much….

The question about ‘Public Hearings for Land Giveaways’ was posted front and center on a window adjacent to the ‘entry’ into the voting area. 

The question about ‘the lockbox’ was sequestered off to the side, on a separate table, next to the Spanish Election instructions.

I would have not given it further thought had the Mayor not come out against the lockbox.
I am curious as to how that referendum fared throughout the City. 

Both measures wound up passing with huge majorities!