HARTFORD, CT — On the campaign trail Gov. Ned Lamont said he would support truck-only tolls, but now he wants electronic highway tolls on all drivers.
In an editorial Saturday, Lamont said he would only be able to toll a few bridges and the revenue wouldn’t be enough to keep up with the necessary repairs.
He said the “truck-only option provides too little revenue, too slowly and too piecemeal to make a meaningful difference.”
And “The gasoline tax simply does not provide the reliable revenue we need, period,” Lamont wrote.
In an effort to reduce the burden on frequent drivers Lamont said he will propose an increase in the earned income tax credit or reduction in gas tax to mitigate the costs of tolling. He said both will be included in the budget he proposes next week to lawmakers.
The proposal and the reversal of his position were swiftly criticized by tolling opponents.
“It’s a false choice of tolls versus no tolls, when in fact other solutions to properly fund transportation do exist,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said. “ In addition, telling people not to worry because residents will only have to pay ‘discounted’ tolls is a disingenuous attempt to curtail criticism. Currently, residents do not pay any tolls in Connecticut. So you can tout a ‘discount’ all you want, but the truth is families are going to be paying more than they already do today if tolls are installed.”
House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said Democrats ran on the issue of tolls and won.
“We got elected on these things,” Ritter said last month pointing to Sen. Alex Bergstein’s win over Scott Frantz in Greenwich.
Bergstein was the first legislator to introduce legislation calling for the establishment of electronic tolls.
Still opponents don’t believe a majority of Connecticut residents support tolls.
Patrick Sasser of No Tolls CT said this proposal shows that Lamont is “listening to the entrenched politicians of Hartford who simply want to take more money out of the pocket of average people.”
Lamont argues that he doesn’t have a choice if he’s going to improve economic growth.
“Beyond an inconvenience, the crushing congestion we experience on I-95, I-91, I-84 and the Merritt Parkway, in particular, is a real challenge we must address and overcome if we are to maximize our economic development potential,” Lamont wrote in the editorial. “Our proximity in mileage to New York City means nothing if it takes 90 minutes to get there from Stamford on the road, and over an hour by train. We need to not only maintain our aging transportation infrastructure, but it’s high time that we upgrade it, too.”
He said congestion is a problem that’s hindering Connecticut’s economic growth. He’s estimated that Connecticut’s economy needs to grow at least three percent per year in order to begin paying off some of the unfunded pension liability.
But not everyone sees tolls as a way to economic growth.
“Tolls will not attract businesses to Connecticut; instead, it will drive them out by imposing unnecessary costs and an increased tax burden on their employees,” Yankee Institute President Carol Platt Liebau said.
She said the problem is cost.
She said Connecticut has the seventh highest cost per mile for transportation spending in the country and the highest administrative cost per mile in the entire United States.
“Our people pay the seventh-highest gas tax in the country,” Liebau said. “And yet our leaders want to impose yet another tax on us without proposing a single measure that would rein in costs. This is utterly unacceptable.”