Governor Ned Lamont is leaning toward tolling of all vehicles in Connecticut, rather than concentrating on trucks as he said during the campaign.
Seven transportation-related bills were discussed at a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford Wednesday. Lawmakers from the state legislature’s Transportation Committee listened to the testimony – one of the bills would authorize the Department of Transportation commissioner to submit a toll proposal to the General Assembly.
Before the hearing started, Lamont addressed the two tolling options proposed in his biennial budget. He said he recognized that tolling all vehicles would force Connecticut residents to pay up.
“People don’t want to do that,” Lamont said. “They think there’s a magic wand or another way we can do this. But, at the end of the day, I feel very strongly that we have to put in this recurring revenue stream to invest in transportation. It’s the best way to get jobs back in the state of Connecticut.”
Members of the general public were also able to use the hearing as a platform to weigh in on tolling. Hilary Gunn, a worker at a nonprofit that serves the elderly, said it’s not necessarily about the money.
“It’s not so much about not wanting to pay a toll but I feel that we already pay for our roads and we’re rewarding failure by continuing to give money to a failing government,” said Gunn, who’s from Greenwich.
She stood in the atrium of the legislative office building – by the security entrance – holding a sign. She also wore a yellow knit-cap that had red writing stitched into it. Each read “No Tolls.”
“We should not just continue an influx of cash so they can keep wasting it,” said Gunn. “Fix the problem first – and then, let’s have a discussion on more revenue.”
John Daddona, an apprenticeship coordinator for a local chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers, supports tolls.
“You see everyone here with these great t-shirts on and a lot of people that don’t have them on are still here,” Daddona said. “They’re here during the middle of the day because they’re ready to go to work.”
Daddona wore a shirt that said “Support our future. Support our economy.”
He said that if tolls are put up, that would make drivers pay for the roads they use every day. It would also mean more work on infrastructure projects for him and his colleagues.
“We have the talent here to go to work to move the state forward for many years,” he said.
The administration said expanded tolling could generate $800 million in revenue. Lamont believes that’s the best way the state can make an investment in transportation infrastructure.
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano disagreed. He and his colleagues are pushing an alternative related to money already being bonded by the state.
“Take the existing bonding – rather than doing these pet projects for all of the politicians around this building – put that money into transportation,” Fasano said. “Oh, by the way, that can start now. We don’t have to wait five years.”
Under the Lamont proposal, tolls would be not be implemented until at least 2024.
The plan calls for 53 tolling locations across Connecticut.