Funding feud

Connecticut Dems want to toll roads for funding, while Republicans want to use bonds.

June 2019

Tyson Fisher

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In April, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and fellow Democratic lawmakers went into detail about their proposal to fund infrastructure projects. Republicans called it a “desperate attempt” to get the plan back on track after anti-toll protests broke out.

Democrat toll plan

Sen. Carlo Leone, chairman of the transportation committee, said that after analyzing all the data and public input, Democrats have a tolling proposal for a dedicated revenue stream. Currently, there are three bills addressing infrastructure funding. Leone said lawmakers are mulling them over with the goal of coming up with one bill to vote on.

According to Rep. Roland Lemar, co-chairman of the transportation committee, the tolling plan will generate $800 million a year specifically for infrastructure projects.

“When we talk about tolling, we’re not talking about something we all want to do because we need to pay the bills,” Lemar said. “We’re talking about the future of our state.”

Democrats criticize the Republicans’ plan to use bonds to fund infrastructure. Under the tolling plan, Democrats claim that 40% of the toll revenue will come from out-of-state residents, as opposed to the 100% of funding from Connecticut residents under the Republican bond plan.

“Allowing 40% of our transportation infrastructure costs to be paid for by out-of-state residents who are driving on our roads every day is the right choice for paying for our needs,” Lemar said.

Lamont said there will be no more than 50 gantries. That is a reduction from the 82 gantries suggested in a study published last November. Lamont also said the gantries would be on no more than the four major thruways identified: I-84, I-91, I-95 and Route 15. Furthermore, gantries will be placed approximately every six to seven miles.

When asked how much more truckers will pay, Connecticut DOT Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said the idea of four times more is “in the right ballpark,” because it would be proportional to the additional wear and tear. However, Giulietti could not provide specifics on pricing before receiving federal approval.

Republican response

Republicans did not approve of the toll proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano said the Democrats have no plan. Fasano pointed out the proposal’s backers have no idea how much it is going to charge and who it will charge. Essentially, he contends that the toll plan lacks important pricing details.

“I think it speaks to the tone deafness that the governor’s office has had relative to those people who have come out in significant numbers to say that tolls are not needed in Connecticut,” Fasano said.

In regards to the criticism of the Republicans’ bond-funded proposal, Fasano said the state is well under its borrowing cap. Furthermore, the governor’s toll plan also asks for borrowing.

“This is just a desperate attempt to try to get a toll plan – which has failed, which is going to fail this state and fail in the way it’s rolled out – back on track,” Fasano said.

Republicans say the per-mile costs are speculative at best and are numbers on which the governor cannot commit. The governor wants “experts” to determine pricing, which Republicans call disrespectful to voters since it lacks transparency.

Rep. Laura Devlin, ranking member of the transportation committee, said that Connecticut taxpayers already pay a lot of money, with $500 million in gas taxes, $330 million in petroleum gross excise taxes, and a car tax. She said nearby states do not have those level of taxes.

“The underlying fear is the tax monster, which is the toll tax monster,” Fasano said. “That still sends goosebumps when I hear them talking about it.”

As of press time, no bill had been introduced by either party. LL

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Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.