Christine Stuart file photo
Sen. Edith Prague (Christine Stuart file photo)

Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, told the legislature’s Transportation Committee Monday that she’s a longtime proponent of putting tolls back on Connecticut’s highways.

She said it’s one source of revenue the state needs to be looking at to balance the budget and promote mass transit options, such as rail.

The draft report by the Massachusetts company hired by the Transportation Strategy Board to study the issue of tolls has estimated tolling and congestion pricing could mean billions of dollars in new revenue for the state.

“Support for these tolls is beginning to grow,” Prague said acknowledging that tolls have been a controversial issue in Connecticut for decades.

Transportation Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, said he’s an advocate of border tolls, especially in light of the declining gasoline tax revenue and more fuel efficient automobiles.

“If not today, if not tomorrow, the crisis will be there,” he said.

Transportation Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, said tolling is an “emotionally charged issue” and there are people who feel very strongly about it on either side.

Rep. Steven Mikutel, D-Griswold, said he lives in a border district and is concerned that border tolls would have an adverse impact on his constituents who may work in Rhode Island.

“It’s not as easy as electronic tolling,” Mikutel said.

Rep. Corky Mazurek, D-Wolcott, said he doesn’t leave the state much, so for those few trips he makes out of state he would like to know if it would be worth it to purchase an Ez Pass “gizmo.”

Over the next five years, Guerrera said he thinks every new car will come equipped with some sort of responder. 

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said she’s had an Ez Pass for about 12 years now. She said she can’t remember how much she may have spent to purchase it, but in each state she’s noticed that the prices have gone up precipitously. She said she’s heard a lot of negative comments about tolls from her constituents and asked Prague what she was hearing.

“Some of them like the idea, some of them don’t,” Prague said. She said sometimes as legislators we have to make decisions not everyone is going to agree with and the decision to place tolls on the highways “is a decision in the best interest of the people of Connecticut.”

Kevin Maloney, from the Connecticut Messenger and Courier Association, said he’s not in favor of tolls because it would disproportionately effect certain segments of the population, including the couriers he represents. He said the state should look at dedicating the Gross Receipts Tax on petroleum to the transportation fund, instead of shuffling it to the General Fund where it’s used for a variety of operating expenses.

DeFronzo said it’s possible the state could create a tax credit for people disproportionately effected by the tax.