Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — In the last year of his term, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is calling for a 7-cent increase in the gas tax and the establishment of electronic highway tolls by 2023.

Malloy is also asking the legislature to approve the establishment of a $3-per-tire fee and acceleration of the transfer of car sale taxes by two years to the Special Transportation Fund, which will be insolvent in the next two years if the legislature takes no action.

Malloy made the announcement Wednesday in the Old Judiciary Room of the state Capitol.

It’s the first time in his eight year tenure that Malloy, who isn’t seeking re-election, has proposed tolls. In the past, Malloy had never ruled out tolls, however, he never explicitly proposed them until now.

“The average commuter in Connecticut spends 41 hours per year in congestion,” Malloy said. “We have one highway, which is 95, that is a parking lot. We have another highway, which is the Merritt Parkway, which is a museum.”

He said the state needs the money from the gas tax increase and tolls to help fund the Special Transportation Fund, which is used to borrow for transportation improvements. The fund will be insolvent in two years without any new sources of revenue.

In the next 20 years, 50 percent of the cars on the road are expected to be electric, Malloy said.

“They don’t use gas,” Malloy said. “It is a dying funding source. Without a replacement source we have no transportation system in the state.”

There are no details about where the tolls will be placed or what they will charge, but they are expected to raise between $600 to $800 million per year.

Malloy argues that Connecticut’s lack of investment in transportation is hurting its ability to revive its economy, which has not recovered since the Great Recession.

But he’s not likely to find support for his proposals from the Republican Party.

“We’re talking about $104 million in new taxes,” Senate President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said.

And that’s before tolls.

He said they haven’t told anyone how many tolls they are going to put up or the cost per mile.

He said the 2015 study used estimates of 10 cents and 20 cents per mile, and that’s “four times the highest rate in the northeast, if not the country.”

“This is just crazy,” Fasano said.

He called for further study of the issue and greater clarity on specifics.

Malloy said they can continue to study the issue and continue to lose businesses and investment to New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Those states have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in transportation “when we stood idly by,” Malloy said.

“It’s not hard to copy the best work done by other people,” Malloy said in defense of tolls.

He said Massachusetts went from toll booths to electronic tolls in a weekend and New Jersey built a parallel highway system when Connecticut did nothing.

“The idea that tolling is some kind of mystery or magic is utterly and fantastically ridiculous,” Malloy added. “And could only be espoused by people who don’t know what they are talking about.”

Malloy said the conversation over the past three years has changed and the talking points of the people who are “not sure” are very different than they used to be.

“Now they’re saying well we couldn’t get them installed in four years. That’s a very different statement than ‘hell no’,” Malloy said.

Democratic lawmakers are touting public support for tolls.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, maintained that they will be holding a vote on tolls this session.

“Right now it’s a fairness issue,” he said. “You travel up and down the east coast, you’re paying tolls.”

Republican lawmakers say they can prioritize their borrowing and pay for the necessary improvements to Connecticut’s roadways.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said that means they’re borrowing money and Connecticut taxpayers are paying the interest on the loans while out-of-state drivers still get a free ride through the state.

“For every million dollars you’re spending you’re adding a half-million in interest costs over 30 years,” Ritter said.

He said another reason that the Republican concept doesn’t make sense is that no other state on the eastern seaboard does it that way.

Gov. Malloy proposes 7 cent gas tax and tolls.

Posted by on Wednesday, January 31, 2018