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Senators Haskell and Kasser file new tolls bill for 2021

Senators Will Haskell, D-Westport, and Alexandra Kasser, D-Greenwich, have filed a bill authorizing the Department of Transportation to install electronic tolls on Connecticut’s interstate highways and parts of Route 15.

The debate over tolls was put to rest in late 2019 after Gov. Ned Lamont and Democrat leaders couldn’t reach an agreement, but with Democrats gaining an even larger majority in both chambers and the loss of revenue due to the pandemic, the table for whether tolls can be passed in Connecticut could be reset.

The Special Transportation Fund went from having a projected positive balance to a $21.5 million deficit by 2024, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, as the number of drivers plummeted during the pandemic leading to less gasoline tax revenue.

Both Kasser and Haskell had said they would continue to support tolling highways over the summer, even as former Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz said that tolls would never happen in Connecticut.

Whether Lamont or Democrat leaders will have an appetite to return to the tolls debate remains to be seen.

According to the CT Mirror, Lamont said that he would not seek tolls again during the 2021 session and said he was looking into alternatives.

But if the tolls bill finds its way to the Transportation Committee it could mean a resurgence of No Tolls CT, a group that hounded both the governor and toll-supporting lawmakers throughout 2019.

“This doesn’t surprise me,” said Patrick Sasser, founder of No Tolls CT. “These two senators have a fixation on tolls. Instead of looking for ways to cut costs at DOT and reduce spending, they want to take the easy way out by charging to drive work when people in our state are struggling more now than ever.”

Traffic on highways remains lower than average as many commuters remain working from home. Gasoline prices, as well, have remained low leading to less revenue from the Petroleum Gross Receipts tax.

According to the OFA, revenue to the transportation fund is projected to be $140.7 million lower in 2021 than previous projections, although expenditures were also decreased by $79.6 million.

Beginning in 2023, the state will also fully commit sales tax revenue from motor vehicle sales to the STF, after the governor and legislature diverted much of it during for the years 2020 and 2021, but it will not enough to offset the increased cost of debt service payments related to transportation bonds.

One of the governor’s alternatives to tolls, could be the Transportation and Climate Initiative that Lamont signed onto in December.

The agreement with TCI would force gasoline producers and distributors to purchase carbon allowance at auction. The money from those auctions would then be funneled to states like Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts – the only states to have signed onto the agreement along with Washington D.C. thus far.

The effect could be to raise gasoline prices by as much as 17 cents per gallon in the first year with possible increases to come in following years as the emissions cap is lowered.

But the optics of pushing for higher costs on residents – whether through tolls or a regionalized gasoline price increase — during a time when unemployment remains high and the pandemic is still preventing businesses and the legislature from fully reopening could prove difficult.

Neither of the senators are listed as serving on the Transportation Committee this year.

Marc E. Fitch

Marc E. Fitch

Marc E. Fitch is the author of several books and novels including Shmexperts: How Power Politics and Ideology are Disguised as Science and Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFOs and Bigfoot. Marc was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow and his work has appeared in The Federalist, American Thinker, The Skeptical Inquirer, World Net Daily and Real Clear Policy. Marc has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Western Connecticut State University. Marc can be reached at Marc@YankeeInstitute.org

10 Comments

  1. Avatar Armand D Perera
    January 12, 2021 @ 5:36 am

    This move Was expected by THEse two politicians REPRESENTing the state of connecticut Gold coast residents / nyc rail commuters. Trust me, this has more to do with subsidizing train rail lines, than maintaining highways. Its funny, the richest residents are least motivated to pay their Fair share for their rail transportation. OK, here’s my solution. No tolls, implement a higher income tax on the rich to subsidize their rail line transportation costs. That will put them in their place! Be careful what you ask for!!!

    Reply

    • Avatar Mark Ohlson
      January 12, 2021 @ 4:47 pm

      i appreciate your point, but there is no reason to raise taxes either. take a look at the following link: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DRS/Research/20-compstate/mon-stmt-jul-2020.pdf
      there are plenty of funds! the state takes in more then enough. the problem is the abuse and unwillingness of politicians to do the hard work, balance the budget, and actually spend the money raised on its intended purpose. until they do that, i don’t want to hear them ask for one red cent!

      Reply

  2. Avatar William Pontin
    January 12, 2021 @ 2:41 pm

    Electonic tolls for trucks – hell yes. Check out the elect. tolls for trucks in Rhode Island, they are working and provide the revenue for road maintenance.

    Reply

    • Avatar Mark Ohlson
      January 14, 2021 @ 3:24 pm

      Actually, they are still litigating this issue, a T.R.O. was declined, but the issue has not been resolved, and the state of RI should lose. So, I’m not sure what good spending all that money to put up unconstitutional tolls would be…unless you really want to tax cars when you are unable to just tax trucks, you could not be more wrong. Even assuming that the state of RI wins and can toll just trucks (unlikely) why would CT spend the money to do it prior to finding the resolution to pending law suits. I understand, that the concept of not wasting money is a foreign concept in CT, but it would be great if for once we didn’t just light money on fire and throw it all away.

      Reply

  3. Avatar Mark Ohlson
    January 12, 2021 @ 4:39 pm

    I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT THE DEMS ADDED SEATS THIS ELECTION IN CT- TERRIBLE FISCAL POLICIES ARE KILLING THIS STATE. THEY REFUSE TO DISCUSS CUTTING spending WHILE WASTING SO MUCH MONEY ON THEIR PERSONAL PORK. THERE SHOULD BE NO DISCUSSION OF RAISING GAS TAX, ADDING TOLLS, OR JOINING THE TCI UNTIL THERE IS A SERIOUS DISCUSSION ON CUTTING spending, there is plenty of money in ct it is just grossly mismanaged. THIS IS A JOKE, AND I HOPE PEOPLE TAKE TO THE POLLS NEXT ELECTION CYCLE AND STOP REWARDING BAD POLICIES. CT NEEDS to stop charging people extra money to go to work! as a resident, i am tired of this!

    Reply

    • Avatar John perrone
      January 21, 2021 @ 8:14 am

      Well stated mark. I could not have said it better myself

      Reply

  4. Avatar Susan
    January 13, 2021 @ 9:52 am

    They could care less about how we feel about it. You just have to get these people out why are democrats voted into this state. We are in the top 4 of people leaving this state. Top 4 state in the country with people leaving.

    Reply

  5. Avatar Richard
    February 20, 2021 @ 5:41 pm

    No one LIKES to PAY toll. But They a absolutely NECESSARY. Gas tax REVENUE Will Be declining in Years to Come as we move to electric. Also, we dont Get enough revenue from out of state vehicles. Ct is so small that they can drive right through without puRchasing gas here. Also, try driving to florida on i-95 and see what states dont collect tolls. None. And SUBSTANTIAL amounts. The amount of toll collected could be small for Commuters going to and from work.

    Reply

  6. Avatar LArry Kellogg
    February 21, 2021 @ 6:19 pm

    Until people hold the legislator’s feet to the fire, they will continue to say one thing and do the opposite. Any tax is a good tax for the democrats even if it does hurt the poor and the middle class. People keep wanting to go to the same well over and over again. Keep raising taxes on the rich and soon only the poor will be left in CT.

    Reply

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