CT House Speaker Makes Stunning Admission About Controversial Tolling Plan
Hartford, Connecticut – The fight over Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s controversial tolling plan is reaching a fevered pitch this week in the state’s legislature and beyond.
Gov. Lamont’s plan which includes posting up to 50 tolling gantries across four major routes: interstates 95, 91, 84 and the Merritt Parkway, has come under heavy criticism by Republicans and anti-tolling organizations like No Tolls CT.
Just this week, No Tolls CT presented legislators with a petition with 100,000 signatures from residents who are urging lawmakers to reject “any, and ALL, proposed legislation to implement TOLLS in the State of Connecticut.”
The group argues tolling will hurt tourism and the state’s economy.
Plus, they say tolling will raise the cost of living and disproportionately hurt lower and middle-income residents.
However, Gov. Lamont and the state’s Democrats argue it won’t impact residents as much as opponents contend since up to 40% of toll revenue will be collected from motorists who don’t live in Connecticut.
They say the plan calls for extending certain discounts to Connecticut EZ-Pass holders and “frequent users,” such as commuters and parents driving their kids to extracurricular activities.
In a letter published May 9, Gov. Lamont indicated peak rates will be set at 4.4 cents per mile. However, he said that figure may be plus or minus 30% (about 1.3 cents).
He also indicated the rates will be “frozen” for three years.
On Wednesday, the proposal cleared another hurdle among lawmakers as it won approval in the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on a 30-20 party line vote, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans opposing.
“To Avoid Trap… We’re Being Very Vague”
A stunning admission Wednesday by CT House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, is giving opponents of the Democrat-backed tolling plan even more fuel to their efforts.
Speaker Aresimowicz admitted the lack of details being offered about the plan so far is not because proponents don’t know the specifics.
In fact, Speaker Aresimowicz indicated it was a planned political strategy in an attempt to limit the amount of time Republicans and opponents will have to “spread misinformation” about the proposal.
“To avoid that trap, and it is a trap, we’re being very vague, Speaker Aresimowicz said.
However, he attempted to clarify his comment by saying, “When the bill comes out, it’s not going to be an amendment that comes out ten minutes before it runs. We’re going to give adequate time to give people to look at it and it’s going to be consistent with what we’ve said all along.”
State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano was quick to blast Democrats’ lack of transparency.
He told local news outlet, WFSB, “Our legislators cannot be cowards. If they want tolls they need to say we want them. We are going to say where they are going to go and we are going to say how much we are going to charge.”
“I Don’t Think That’s A Clear Majority”
Numerous polls have been conducted in recent months gauging public opinion in the state on the tolling issue.
Critics point to a Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy poll, published in March, which indicated that 59% of Connecticut residents opposed implementing electronic tolling.
However, a senior advisor to Gov. Lamont, Colleen Flanagan Johnson, said about the results of that poll, “The majority of Connecticut residents likely support tolling when they learn the funds generated will be subject to protections.”
In a committee hearing on Wednesday, Speaker Aresimowicz flatly dismissed the No Tolls CT petition which garnered 100,000 signatures from concerned residents.
“How many residents do we have in the state of Connecticut,” he asked. His fellow legislators then responded, “3.5 million.”
“Oh, so they got one hundred thousand people on a petition. I don’t think that’s a clear majority,” Speaker Aresimowicz derided.
The Speaker confirmed a vote in the General Assembly to approve the plan could come as soon as next week.
Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow any new developments.