Two years ago Connecticut lawmakers were unable to find the votes for Gov. Ned Lamont’s electronic toll proposal, now the special transportation fund is going broke, but will tolls be part of the solution? At least two lawmakers want to resurrect tolls from the political graveyard.
“We knew that the transportation fund was running out of dough last year,” Lamont said Monday during his daily press briefing.
It’s been accelerated by the pandemic and the reduction in vehicle traffic and an increase in electric car ownership.
“We probably are going to get a couple hundred million dollars from the feds for transportation related assistance so we have a little bit of time so we can manage through this. The legislature’s going to have to make up their mind on this,” Lamont said.
The governor said he will propose ways to raise revenue for the special transportation fund in February during his budget address.
In the meantime, at least two lawmakers want to revive the debate over tolls.
“There’s a lot of fiscal uncertainty as we enter this upcoming session but one thing that is absolutely clear is that the special transportation fund is unsustainable in its current form,” Sen. Will Haskell, a Democrat from Wilton, said.
The special transportation fund is where all the money to improve Connecticut’s roads comes from and it’s funded by the gas tax and other sales taxes.
“I’m a big believer in the fact that you can’t complain about a problem unless you propose a solution to that problem,” Haskell said.
Haskell’s solution is installing electronic tolls on interstates 84, 91, 95, and portions of route 15.
He knows it’s unlikely to go anywhere but that doesn’t matter.
“Legislators have one month a year to show our constituents and to show voters that we’re serious about addressing the problems that Connecticut residents face. The other 11 months a year are dedicated to compromise and negotiation,” Haskell said.
Patrick Sasser, founder of No Tolls CT, said: “I’m not sure why they want to go this route when we the people have been begging for the past two years for our lawmakers to dig into why the costs of DOT are so high.”
Sasser said it’s frustrating that lawmakers would raise the issue again this year.
“Before we go putting up these tolls, before we start taxing people another tax to drive on the highways, we should be looking at where can we reduce costs,” he said.
“Let’s dig into how we can make these projects more affordable and how we can do it within our means," he added.
Haskell believes tolls is a fairer way to charge users of Connecticut's roads for their use.
“It’s simply not true that if you vote for tolls you lose at the polls,” Haskell said.
Lamont declined to say how he plans to raise revenue to support the special transportation fund but it won’t be tolls.