CT House Speaker: Toll Bill Details Kept Secret on Purpose

Rep. Joe Aresimowicz said said some discussions on the tolls proposal have to happen out of public view because that’s the nature of the process

Connecticut’s Speaker of the House said Wednesday that the details of the final toll proposal have to kept under wraps or else Republicans will run a disinformation campaign aimed at swaying public opinion.

“To avoid that trap, and it is a trap, we’re being very vague. When the bill comes out, it’s not going to be an amendment that comes out ten minutes before it runs,” Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, (D – Berlin), told reporters. “We’re going to give adequate time to give people to look at it and it’s going to be consistent with what we’ve said all along.”

He said some discussions have to happen out of public view because that’s the nature of the process. He’s specifically referring to the discussions with the Federal Highway Administration, ensuring that whatever Connecticut passes will pass muster.

Rep. Roland Lemar, (D – New Haven), who chairs the Transportation Committee, followed that lead Wednesday morning, while he answered questions during debate in the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, on whether to advance the current tolls proposal.

“That is the process that we are going through right now,” Lemar said during an exchange with Transportation Committee ranking member Rep. Laura Devlin, (R – Fairfield. “In this very room, we will have the ability to look at the plan that we are allowing the DOT to enter into negotiations with the federal highway authority to seek the federal approvals necessary.”

Republicans have been united against tolls. Instead, they favor a plan that would borrow more than $40 billion paid for by Connecticut taxpayers, and depending on a match from the federal government of more than $20 billion to pay for roads, bridges, and public transit upgrades over the next 30 years. That plan, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, would not be fully paid off until about 2071, once the principle and interest rates are factored in.

Rep. Devlin and her Senate counterpart Sen. Henri Martin, (R – Bristol), have traveled the state, showing a map with tolls on each interstate highway, most of Route 15, 2, and 8. However, Gov. Ned Lamont has never supported tolls on state highways 2 and 8. Devlin insisted that any bill that doesn’t exclude roads, may eventually get tolled.

“This is not the direction that our state should be going in,” Devlin said during the committee discussion Wednesday. “Added taxes, including tolls, are what will set our state back, not bring us forward.”

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