Tolls, Rainy Day Fund Leave Lawmakers Split on Transportation Plan

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont met with lawmakers Tuesday about the General Assembly's latest ideas for funding Connecticut's transportation needs.

Lamont asked Republican and Democratic legislative leaders to meet with him privately to discuss the plans and a meeting is planned at the governor's residence in Hartford Tuesday.

Lamont recently unveiled his 10-year, $21.3 billion, wide-ranging CT2030 transportation plan, which partially relies on revenue generated from 14 bridge tolls throughout the state. However, both Republicans and Democrats have expressed serious reservations about tolls. House Democrats have instead suggested 12 tolls on only big trucks, a concept that's like what Lamont proposed during his 2018 election campaign.

Senate Republicans have proposed a no-tolls alternative that relies on complicated plan to financially stabilize the state's transportation fund by using $1.5 billion from Connecticut's budget reserves.

Republicans said that the meeting was an encouraging step, but that tolls continue to be a sticking point.

"I think they agree with the concept because they’re taking some of the concept for their plan. They just want to have a truck toll and we believe a truck toll is a not-starter," Sen. Len Fasano said.

Fasano explained that Republicans are reluctant to support a trucks-only toll, in part because of concerns in the public trust that the tolls will remain trucks-only.

Republicans also expressed concerns that the trucks-only tolls will actually bring in the revenue needed.

“We don’t actually believe the trucks only plan works. We don’t believe in the toll avenue to begin with because we feel there are other ways to do it that are more responsible and we put some of those on the table. But we don’t believe that their trucks only plan at this point actually fiscally works," Rep. Themis Klarides said.

Democrats defended the trucks-only plan and said that taking money from the rainy day fund would be dangerous when a recession comes.

“The state’s on either side of us have truck tolls to significant degrees. We would adopt a revenue scheme that would within that range of the national policy regarding tolls," Sen. Martin Looney said.

Looney also said Democrats were willing to go as far as a constitutional amendment to ensure there will be no tolls on passenger cars.

Democrats who control the House and Senate gave no timeline for a potential vote but the governor indicated he would like to see it passed before next year’s legislative session.

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