Connecticut truck-only tolls imminent?

December 2, 2019

Keith Goble

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The Connecticut governor and his party’s leaders at the statehouse are united behind a transportation funding plan that focuses on truck-only tolls.

A 10-year, $21 billion funding plan released last month by Gov. Ned Lamont included a toll provision for many car and truck drivers. The Democratic governor’s plan, however, was quickly shot down by members of his own party.

Since that time, Democratic leaders at the statehouse have gotten behind a plan previously pursued by Lamont that singles out trucks for tolling.

Governor and Dems merge ideas

Lamont has been active his first year in office to end Connecticut’s distinction as the lone New England state without any kind of tolling program.

Along the campaign trail in fall 2018 Lamont touted a truck-only toll before revising his plan to include an all-electronic toll on all highway users.

He also originally wanted 80 toll gantries throughout the state. A cool reception to the idea among Republicans and some Democrats, as well as many constituents, spurred the governor to revise his plan to about a dozen gantries.

In hopes his concessions would appease enough of the Democratic majority to get a toll component enacted, Lamont recently unveiled his updated transportation plan called CT2030.

Party leaders said they would not support a plan to toll constituents. Instead, Senate Democrats opted to support singling out large trucks for new revenue.

GOP alternative

Republicans at the statehouse oppose any toll talk. Instead, party leaders in the Senate have gotten behind an alternative to tolls.

The Senate GOP’s 10-year, $18 billion “FASTR CT” plan relies on low-cost borrowing from the federal government to help cover expenses for road, bridge, rail, port and bus improvements. The governor’s CT2030 plan includes the same borrowing component.

The big difference between the plans is the GOP’s reliance on “rainy day” funds to cover costs. Tapping the state’s budget reserves would allow the state to pay off pension liabilities to free up $130 million annually that could be used for transportation.

Additionally, the party wants to see the Special Transportation Fund overhauled to become more efficient with existing revenues.

Truck-only tolls

The plan to collect truck tolls focuses on 12 bridges around the state – two fewer than the governor’s plan to collect from all highway users.

Republican leaders at the statehouse emerged disappointed after last week’s meeting with the governor and Democrats.

“House Republicans remain dead set against any tolls,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said in a released statement. She added that there are “workable alternatives rather than simply adding more revenue streams.”

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, also was frustrated with the direction of transportation funding talks.

“If Democrats don’t want Republican ideas, if they’d rather tax people to death, they should vote on their plan now … They have the majority. Put it up for a vote. Democrats, go for it,” Fasano said.

The governor’s office countered the sharp criticism from GOP legislators.

“Today, it became abundantly clear that Gov. Lamont, Senate Democrats, and House Democrats are the only ones looking out for our taxpayers’ best interests and the only ones with a plan that takes advantage of revenue from out-of-state trucks,” said Max Reiss, the governor’s communications director.

Klarides says leaders on the other side of the aisle are trying to fool Connecticut residents with their toll plans.

“The idea that we will only toll trucks or rely on out of state motorists to fund these projects is a fallacy.”

More Land Line coverage of news from Connecticut is available.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.