Companies Back Governor's Transportation Plan, But Say Little on Tolls

One executive says Lamont’s 10-year, $21 billion transportation proposal is a solution to the issue of companies relocating from our state.

A week after rolling out his transportation plan, Gov. Ned Lamont says he’s getting some positive feedback from some of the state’s largest companies, including New Britain-based Stanley Black & Decker.

But none of the statements of support from businesses specifically mention the proposal’s controversial roadblock --tolls.

While the governor hopes the business support helps drive forward his vision for our state’s future travels, it’s evident he has a long road to go to get lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to sign on to his plan.

On Tuesday, Stanley Black & Decker’s president and CEO Jim Loree did a sit-down interview with NBC Connecticut and said his support isn’t political, but it’s what’s best for business.

Loree said investment in transportation infrastructure will help keep good jobs in our state.

“We don’t want to leave. Obviously, if it ever got to the point where there was no solution, whether it’s transportation, or fiscal stability, or whatever, we’d have to seriously consider that, but right now we’re all in and we’re staying and we’re trying to be part of the solution,” he said.

Loree said Lamont’s 10-year, $21 billion transportation proposal is a solution to a big problem in our state.

“When you look at corporate relocations and decisions that are made, not only to stay, but to come into our state and other states, this is a huge issue,” he said.

The governor’s newly released and revised plan focuses on fixing old infrastructure and speeding up Connecticut residents' commutes. Funding is expected to come from borrowing and 14 new bridge tolls.

While Loree won’t take a specific stance on tolls, he believes the plan can bring more opportunity to Connecticut.

“The reality is that out-of-state residents pay 45 percent of the cost of repairing those bridges if we do it with user fees and if you do it with other forms of taxes, or Connecticut residents are going to be paying for that," he said.

When asked about the impact paying tolls could have on his 1,200 Connecticut workers, he said features of the plan, like better commute times, will benefit them in the future.

Republican State Rep. Themis Klarides spoke out Tuesday against the plan.

“If you really believe that transportation sets a priority, which as I said we all do, then you will find a way within existing revenues to put it where you believe the priorities should be and I think that should be transportation,” she said. “The reason we don’t support them (tolls) is because there’s no trust in this state.”

Lamont will try to convey his plan to the senate Democratic caucus on Wednesday.

“Frankly there is a need for a new revenue source to address the issue of transportation, whether it be tolls or whether it be looking at legalizing marijuana and sports betting,” said Sen. Martin Looney (D) who also stressed, “First of all, I would like to see a bipartisan bill on an issue this important to the state of Connecticut. I think it’s not healthy to have a purely partisan vote, so I would hope that we could come to some bipartisan agreement.”

Will the support of local big business leaders change the mind of constituents adamantly against tolls?

The governor sure hopes so.

“The public wants good paying jobs. They want their kids to be able to stay in the state and have an opportunity and a good job close to home and when you have business leaders saying, ‘This is key to my growing and expanding in the state of Connecticut, fix your transportation system in a fiscally responsible way,’ I think people listen to that,” Lamont said.

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