February 15, 2019

Sen. Bergstein: It’s Time To Invest In Connecticut With An Infrastructure Bank

HARTFORD – There was widespread support at a public hearing Thursday for a bill introduced by state Senator Alex Bergstein (D-Greenwich) to create a Connecticut Infrastructure Bank to fund public/private improvements to Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.
Senate Bill 70, “AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE CONNECTICUT INFRASTRUCTURE BANK,” would establish a Connecticut Infrastructure Bank to finance major transportation projects such as the 30-30-30 project that Governor Ned Lamont supports (30 minute train times between Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and New York City).

An infrastructure bank is a public-private partnership that leverages public funds with private investment capital, multiplying every dollar 5-10 times.

“Connecticut can innovate its way to an economic recovery if we modernize our infrastructure and change how we finance it,” said Sen. Bergstein, Senate Chair of the Banking Committee. “We can’t expect to attract businesses like Amazon when we have the 41st-worst infrastructure in America. Connecticut is the gateway to New England, and we should have best-in-class rails and roads. With 21st century financing we can achieve 21st century results. This session, the legislature has the opportunity to embrace a proven model that not only delivers fast trains, better roads and more jobs, but also reduces carbon emissions and advances the green economy.”

“Connecticut has a prime opportunity to embrace innovation, modernize our transportation system and grow our economy,” she added. “ We could attract new businesses and jobs or remain the land of steady habits and fall farther behind.”

Various finance, infrastructure and environmental experts testified at the public hearing in support of Sen. Bergstein’s bill.

“A Connecticut infrastructure bank would unlock access to over $80 trillion of capital controlled by institutional investors,” said Suneel Kamlani, the former chief executive officer of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the former chief executive officer of UBS who is also a Harvard Advanced Leadership Fellow.

Infrastructure banks are the modern way to finance and build roads, rails, airports and clean energy projects. While Europe and Asia have used this method for decades, the U.S. has been slow to adopt, Kamlani said.

“The United States still uses mostly public funds, but other countries use private capital, too. A Connecticut infrastructure bank would have a multiplier effect on state funding, leveraging every dollar 5-10 times with private debt capital,” Kamlani said. “An infrastructure bank would attract businesses, drive innovation, support the green economy and create jobs.”

David Sutherland of The Nature Conservancy also spoke in favor of creating an infrastructure bank, noting it could be used to help fight the effects of global climate change and rising sea levels along the Connecticut shore.

“Some of our coastal neighborhoods will literally not survive the next few decades, and their communities’ economies and grand lists will be devastated without projects like these. If we do not invest significant dollars designing and implementing scores of resilience and risk-reduction projects, we will incur vastly greater expenses in recovering from tropical storms, hurricanes, and routine Nor’easters intensified by sea level rise,” Sutherland testified. “Fortunately, the infrastructure bank model provides a way to use limited amounts of state funding and innovative financing to leverage far greater sums of private capital to provide funding and low-interest loans for public and private infrastructure. Many states and countries use this approach; here in Connecticut the Green Bank has used it very successfully in the renewable energy sector. An infrastructure bank approach to coastal and river resilience will be crucial to ensuring the survival of many of our shoreline and river communities.”

Others testifying in support of Sen. Bergstein’s bill included: Jeff Diehl, CEO, Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank; Bryan Garcia, CEO, Connecticut Green Bank; Sam Gardner, Gregg Wies & Gardner Architects; and Melissa Kaplan-Macey, Vice President, State Programs and State Director, Regional Plan Association.