Out-going Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, posted on his Facebook page Monday that “Tolls are never going to pass or even be proposed in this state.”
“I tried and used all of my political capital and I can tell you flat out it will never happen,” Aresimowicz wrote.
The post was Aresimowicz’s endorsement for JoAnn Angelico-Stetson, a Berlin Democrat running for the House of Representatives against Republican Donna Veach.
The anti-toll movement in Connecticut has been heavily pushing back against Democrats during this election cycle after Democrats supported tolling Connecticut’s highways but could never muster the will for a vote, fearing possible election backlash.
Aresimowicz is not running for reelection and narrowly won his reelection in 2018 by just 50 votes, so Angelico-Stetson may face an uphill battle in her election bid.
Whether the out-going Speaker’s post is true or just a bit of political posturing in order to lower the heat on a fellow Democrat remains to be seen.
Many believe the tolls issue will undoubtedly return, particularly in light of lower revenue to the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that other Democrats are continuing their push for tolls.
Notably, Sen. Will Haskell, D-Wilton, said during an October 4 candidate forum hosted by the Ridgefield League of Women Voters that tolls still deserve a “serious look.”
“We should take a serious look at charging user fees for those on our roads and our highways who have a wear and tear on our infrastructure without contributing,” Haskell said.
Similarly, Sen. Alexandra Kasser, D-Greenwich, who proposed the first tolls bill of 2019, said she remains steadfastly in support of tolls on Connecticut’s highways and “won’t give up” during an October 8 election debate also hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Republicans were and remain uniformly opposed to the idea and have been using the issue to get support for their candidates.
The push for tolls generated widespread public opposition in the form of No Tolls CT, who held numerous rallies and dogged the governor and other Democrats at nearly every public appearance.
The debate over tolls began under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration and continued into Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration in 2019 before finally being put to bed when Democrats in both chambers stalled on holding a vote prompting the governor to call it quits and move on to other issues.
Although recent revenue estimates are not as dire this year as previously expected, the state still faces ongoing multi-billion deficits and Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw cautioned that recent revenue gains might not last in her report to State Comptroller Kevin Lembo.
“OPM will monitor the continuation and substanability of these trends, recognizing that an unprecedented amount of fiscal and monetary stimulus was injected into the nation’s economy by the federal government over the spring and summer months and such stimulus is now waning,” McCaw wrote.
As of October, the state’s Special Transportation Fund faced a $119 million deficit and its balance had been depleted by $310 million, a result of less travel by commuters during the pandemic and record-low gasoline prices.
Aresimowicz also wrote that “defunding the police has never been proposed at state level or local level,” possibly in response to criticism leveled at Democrats for the Police Accountability Act passed during a July Special Session.
Aresimowicz warned against personal attacks against Angelico-Stetson and said Veach’s supporters aren’t being fair in their criticisms, “so I’m weighing in.”
**Meghan Portfolio contributed to this article**