Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — After promising a vote for weeks and staking his political career on electronic highway tolls, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said Wednesday that they won’t be holding a vote.

Aresimowicz had wanted to get a vote on electronic tolls done Wednesday, but he doesn’t have the votes to send it to the Senate where it likely would have been defeated.

In a Wednesday morning press conference, Aresimowicz blamed the lack of information about the necessity of tolls and a constant narrative that suggests “Connecticut sucks at all costs.”

He said he’s done what he could to get his members comfortable with the idea of electronic tolls.

The legislation would have asked the Department of Transportation Commissioner to study the issue and come up with a plan for how many tolls would be installed and how much it would cost commuters.The bill would then require the next legislature to adopt the plan.

“Our goal was to have an honest conversation with the taxpayers of the state,” Aresimowicz said.

But he said that’s hard to do when there are people “who want to paint the picture that Connecticut sucks at all costs and any new thing is going to force people out of the state.”

He said they’ve gotten to a point where they can no longer have an intelligent argument about the insolvency of the Special Transportation Fund or the decline in the amount of gas taxes due to an increasing number of electric vehicles on the roads.

ctnewsjunkie file photo
Repairs being made to the I-84 viaduct (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

Aresimowicz said he understands that they work in politics, but for a moment he was hoping the legislature could be “states people” who would do what’s right, regardless of the political consequences.

“I’m willing to put my election on the line over tolls because I genuinely believe it’s the right thing,” Aresimowicz said.

However, he can no longer promise he will put it up on the board for a full vote.

If he did call it for a vote and put his members on the record, then he puts those members at risk of not being re-elected.

Democrats hold a slim 79-71 majority in the House.

“The speaker realizes there is no support for tolls no matter what plan comes out,” Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Wednesday.

Republicans have said they could reprioritize the $2 billion in general obligations bond and improve the state’s infrastructure without tolls. Democrats have argued that it would crowd out too many other worthy capital projects.

Leigh Appleby, a spokesman for Malloy, said the legislature still needs to secure funding for the Special Transportation Fund.

“Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling and in desperate need of investment just to keep it in a state of good repair—both in the short-run and over the long-run. There is no question that electronic tolling would pave the way for a long-term solution. But no matter what happens in the toll debate this session, we still have the obligation to act quickly to ensure the STF’s immediate solvency, and one way we can do that right now is by moving funds from the sales tax on new cars into the STF earlier than currently scheduled,” Appleby said.

At least four bills included language related to tolls this year:

HB 5046: An Act Concerning The Sustainability Of Transportation Projects

HB 5393: An Act Establishing The Connecticut Transportation Finance Authority To Maintain Major State Highways

HB 5391: An Act Concerning The Preparation Of A Tolling Proposal And Support For Transportation Infrastructure

SB 389: An Act Establishing The Connecticut Transportation Authority

Aresimowicz says he won’t call tolls for a vote

Aresimowicz says he won’t call tolls for a vote

Pre-house session for May 2. Aresimowicz and D’Agostino and Ritter.

Posted by on Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Republicans followed with their own press conference to discuss their budget proposal later in the afternoon:

Republicans discuss budget proposal with reporters

Republican budget proposal

Posted by on Wednesday, May 2, 2018