HARTFORD, CT — A group that is opposed to Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to install tolls on four highways in Connecticut delivered more than 100,000 signatures against the proposal to the governor’s office Thursday and got a meeting with his chief of staff.
“I don’t think any other petition has gained that many signatures,” Patrick Sasser, founder of No Tolls CT, said Thursday. “Our goal now is to make sure the governor and the lawmakers in this building right understand that the taxpayers have had enough.”
Sasser said the trust has been broken between the government and the taxpayers of Connecticut.
“This is an opportunity for Connecticut residents to ban together and say we’ve had enough,” Sasser said.
He said the financial impact of tolls won’t only be on the highway, but through the higher costs of goods in the stores as a result of tolls.
“We’re not talking about one or two tolls here, we’re talking about 50 of them,” Sasser said.
Sasser said he believes something needs to be done to improve Connecticut’s infrastructure, but he’s not an elected official so it’s not his job to come up with a solution.
“It’s up to our lawmakers to come up with a solution that doesn’t put it all on the back of the taxpayers either,” Sasser said.
Sasser said his group is opposed to tolls, which doesn’t necessarily mean they support other alternatives to tolls like the Republican plan to prioritize bonding as was suggested by Lamont’s communications director, Maribel La Luz.
“We know that the No Tolls group feels passionately about this issue,” La Luz said. “So does Gov. Lamont. But people who signed these petitions aren’t saying ‘no’ to tolls—what they’re actually saying yes to taking out a $30 billion loan, as proposed by the Republicans.”
The Republicans have proposed prioritizing $700 million in general obligation bonding that could be spent on infrastructure as opposed to other capital projects. The plan assumes the state would continue spending about $1.9 million on general obligation bonds, which doesn’t adhere to Lamont’s debt diet.
Meanwhile, the construction trades have been lobbying hard in favor of tolls.
The Connecticut Construction Industries Association, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, the CT Laborers’ District Council, and the CT Ready-Mixed Concrete Association are all members of Move CT Forward, an entity that purchased more than $700,000 in advertising promoting tolls.
Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, who was also at the Capitol Thursday, said his question for everyone who is against tolls is: “what’s their plan for 2025?”
The Special Transportation Fund, which is used to borrow the money for all transportation projects, starts running deficits in 2023 and it won’t support a bond sale in 2025 and by 2027 it would be insolvent.
Republicans argue the only reason the deficits start is because the Democrats divert the funding before it gets to the Special Transportation Fund.
Lamont’s budget capped the amount of new car sales tax revenue going toward the STF and he refused the use the $250 million in general obligation bonds earmarked by the 2018 bipartisan budget proposal.
Lamont, who campaigned on truck-only tolls before changing his mind, is expected to unveil a more detailed or nuanced toll proposal Friday.