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Transportation Committee Passes Tolls

After extensive debate, the Connecticut Transportation Committee today voted along party lines to approve several tolling bills, which have sparked public interest and outcry across the state. 

The Democratic party majority held enough of a lead to ensure passage against Committee Republicans.

The bills allow, in varying degrees, the Connecticut Department of Transportation to establish tolls on Connecticut’s major interstates and Route 15. 

Senate Bill 423 was amended to remove language creating a quasi-public transportation authority in response to public criticism. Instead, the bill would create a special department within the DOT and establish priority projects for the toll revenue to address.

A number of those projects involve train repairs to the New Haven line, the Danbury line and the Waterbury line with other repairs to some rail stations. 

SB 423 would also impose a moratorium on toll rates for 10 years and specifies the toll revenue would be deposited directly into the lockbox.

“We have a desperate need now,” said Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, chairman of the Transportation Committee. “We need to find a way to address our infrastructure.”

“My goal is to move these bills forward, so we can have a robust debate,” Leone told the committee.

Similar bills were passed out of committee during the 2018 legislative session but faced significant public opposition and a closely divided House and Senate. The tolling measures were never brought up for a vote in the House, despite promises by House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz.

But this year may prove dramatically different. Democrats hold significant majorities in the House and Senate and have made tolling one of their key legislative agenda items this year. 

Gov. Ned Lamont also backs the tolling Connecticut’s highways and reversed a key campaign promise that he would only seek to toll large trucks, by proposing legislation to toll all vehicles. 

Lamont also proposed freezing the vehicle sales tax revenue transfer to the Special Transportation Fund as part of his budget which will leave the fund bankrupt by 2022.

Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, questioned whether lawmakers could restrain themselves from taking money from the STF through either sweeps or diversions as the legislature has in the past to fill budget gaps.

“This is a real concern to the residents of Connecticut,” Devlin said. “This has strong bipartisan opposition.”

Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said it would be “irresponsible” to vote on something without specifics such as where the tolls will be, how much they will cost and how much revenue it will raise and said DOT would be able to raise rates without legislative approval.

“I find that difficult to accept,” Lavielle said. “If I’m going to vote on something that will cost my constituents money… I need to know the answers to these questions.”

Leone said the tolls must be legislatively approved in order to be considered by the federal government.

Rep. Travis Simms, D-Norwalk, said he represents working people who are struggling to make ends meet. “I think by putting tolls in the state it will have a huge impact on my constituents,” Simms said.

Simms said he would vote to pass tolls out of committee, but “I will reserve my right to vote ‘No’ on my final vote.”

Democrats pointed out that Jim Smith and Bob Patricelli, chairs of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, also proposed tolls as part of their recommendations to solve Connecticut’s on-going fiscal problems.

Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said the state should consider re-opening the SEBAC agreement and adjust state employee pensions and benefits — which was also proposed by Smith and Patricelli’s commission — in order to save money before imposing tolls on Connecticut residents.

Leone said Republicans have not put forward any alternatives to tolls, which sparked House Miniority Leader Themis Klarides to appear before the Transportation Committee and lambast Leone.

“Scare tactics and untruths are not what this building is about,” Klarides said. “To say there has not been any alternatives is not true and disrespectful.”

Leone said the Republicans’ Prioritize Progress plan has not come before the Transportation Committee. Klarides pointed out Republicans have held numerous press conferences on the subject. 

The Committee also passed House Bills 7280 and 7202. The bills will now progress to the House and Senate for debate.

The March 6 public hearing was packed with both politicians, members of the public and construction union members voicing their opposition or support for the tolling measures. 

Written testimony submitted to the Transportation Committee on the day of the public hearing was extensive.

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(14) Comments

  1. Marlin williams

    March 26, 2019 10:18 am

    My God, what sane person would ever open a business in a state like this? There’s a feeling of dread that comes with livinf in CT now, and a sense of doom.

  2. Joe

    March 23, 2019 2:00 pm

    Did Dan Malloy really move to New Jersey last Monday?

  3. John Durand

    March 23, 2019 11:36 am

    count this couple as one forced to leave a state we once loved.
    We spent considerable time exploring options with pending retirement and staying in CT moved further down
    the list as our check list of needs and desires was completed. Oh, and BTW, the housing market in CT is awful.
    We’ve not been able to get a decent offer on our CT home since Jan. 2017, so we still continue to get taxed by CT.

    We made a great decision to move to GA and that was prior to the last election and the nonsense going on in
    Hartford currently. Can you put a tax on volume of air consumed per day?

    No economy can survive on services alone. Manufacturing has left, as has Insurance and Banking. Government, medical, education
    along with fast food and retail are all that’s left. We spend huge to “educate” our children only to see them flee the state for jobs elsewhere.
    Where is the ROI in that? You need a serious, complete revamping of the budget, spending and revenue structure in CT which
    realistically reflects the financial limits of the State.

    I was born in New Haven and spent a total of 64 of my 73 years living in Ct. We’ve lived in Tn, Il and Ga for the balance.
    Our 2017 move, and last, was a painful decision but one mandated by the long record of mismanagement of Ct.
    Our only retirement choice was to leave.

    Wake up politicians, Democrats, Republicans and Rhinos alike. Rome is failing …….. read your history.

  4. Don Hutchinson

    March 23, 2019 10:18 am

    Gee what a surprise. Elect Lamont and give the Dems back both chambers in the legislature and what did we get.? The great onrush of taxes on just about everything you can imagine. I have not heard a single thing about how the state can cut spending on anything. Why is all current spending practically guaranteed to continue indefinitely? Why are all proposals ( haven’t seen any lately) to cut spending regarded by the protect interests as “devasting and catastrophic?” I’ll probably be the only senior citizen left in Conn. I have to go to Fla to see all my friends!!!!!!!

  5. John Oliva

    March 22, 2019 8:54 am

    I agree with tolls but only at the borders. I traveled home from Delaware in a duly Pickup Truck and had to pay $27.00 for the Jersey Turnpike and $42.00 to cross the George Washington Bridge into CT. If you want to work in NY for the big bucks, pay the tolls. I also think we need to stop subsidizing the train for the people who do the same. Maybe if they stopped this jobs would come to CT. I also think that all the rich people with boats and yachts should pay property tax on them, I have to pay on my car and camper. And how about the rich paying a noise tax on their private helicopters and planes as they ruin our peaceful time we get to relax in our taxed back yards.

  6. Brian

    March 21, 2019 11:48 pm

    Another lying politician…seems like a trend

  7. Lori

    March 21, 2019 5:18 pm

    Pretty soon nobody will be able to afford living in Ct. GREAT JOB GREEDY POLITICIANS. HOw about giving people like hard working CNA’s a raise. The state refuses to pay homecare workers a fair wage. BUT THEY CONTINUE TO FILL THERE POCKETS!

  8. Paul

    March 21, 2019 4:01 pm

    I agree with tolls on some level if the money goes where It needs to be BUT I don’t believe it will, need to figure out a way to make a better budget and a stronger future plan. If we don’t we’ll end up just like the south when the textiles moved out of state…a poor broke state

  9. B Hanock

    March 21, 2019 1:57 pm

    The big trucking company’s are just going to pass the expense on to the consumer!! (Us)
    The whole thing sucks for the middle class people who are just trying to make ends meet.
    I can’t wait to retire and move out of CT.

  10. Robert

    March 21, 2019 1:35 pm

    If taxing your way to prosperity worked, more states would have done it. This is whistling in the graveyard. And delaying a remedy. The tolls will also be like blood clots to the state’s econkmy.

  11. Steven Lockhart

    March 20, 2019 9:08 pm

    ass hole lamont

  12. Mike Gallagher

    March 20, 2019 7:28 pm

    Another reason for people and businesses to leave. Our property taxes keep going up and same with Income Taxes. Spending must go down and so must pensions. I am OK with tolls on the big 18 wheelers that are hard on the highways. Give the citizens a break. Otherwise more of us will leave.

    • Bob M

      March 23, 2019 12:40 pm

      yep, tax the big trucks you idiot and things will cost more. how is that giving the citizens a break?

  13. jack

    March 20, 2019 7:12 pm

    crooks

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