Supporters and opponents of putting tolls on Connecticut’s highways are retreating to their corners for what could be a prolonged debate on the issue as the regular session marches toward its conclusion.
The General Assembly’s Transportation Committee held a public hearing on a number of proposals but the marquee issues were those establishing tolls and an authority for transportation management.
Republicans appear to be putting on a united message against tolls in what’s poised to be a critical election year.
“Yes, Senate Republicans are united against tolls,” said Sen. Len Suzio, (R – Meriden).
Suzio said he would prefer that lawmakers pursue a GOP plan that spent $65 billion over several decades all through using the state’s bonding structure, in essence, the state’s credit card, paid for by taxpayers.
He said using bonding is the most prudent way forward rather than asking Connecticut drivers to pay for road improvements.
“It’s just another burden on Connecticut taxpayers and unlike the proponents we know that you can’t put border tolls in so the idea that a huge amount of money is going to come in from out-of-staters totally false and it will not happen,” Suzio said.
Democrats, including Gov. Dannel Malloy, are pushing ahead with a plan that would put tolls at least on Connecticut’s interstate highways: I-84, I-91, and I-95.
Rep. Tony Guerrera, (D – Rocky Hill), has been the loudest supporter of tolls for past few years.
“It’s some type of sustainable revenue that we need,” Guerrera said of monetizing out of state drivers.
The Democrats’ plan is limited on detail on how the tolling system would work. The only elements that have been discussed openly would the use of electronic tolls in lieu of traditional toll takers and booths, and an authority that would manage the tolls program and have the ability to take on debt to finance new projects.
Gov. Malloy also proposed a new surcharge on tire purchases and increasing the state’s gas tax as ways to pay for infrastructure.
Guerrera says he sees no other way to come up with new money to pay for possibly $100 billion in improvements statewide.
“We travel throughout the whole northeast corridor and no one has a problem paying for those tolls but then you come to Connecticut and it’s just a pass-through and you don’t have to pay,” Guerrera said. “I don’t understand that logic.”