HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged the tough spot into which he put members of his own party by asking them to vote in favor of installing electronic tolls on four highways in Connecticut.
Lamont, who asked to address the House Democratic caucus and invited the news media to tag along, said he put some members in a “pickle” because he ran for office saying he thought they could do this with truck-only tolls.
Shortly after taking office, Lamont switched his position.
“I just don’t want us to nickel and dime this any longer,” Lamont said.
He said there’s going to be a tendency to want to study this a little longer, but “our time is now.”
“I know that I put you in a tough vote,” Lamont said. “It’s the most important vote you’re gonna take and I’m gonna be standing there with each and every one of you.”
Lamont said he will have the business community raising money for the caucus and supporting them in their re-election campaigns.
“I took the battle right to them,” Lamont said, referring to his decision to stop Tuesday at an anti-toll forum at Greenwich Town Hall.
He said their plan is to do nothing, “the same thing we’ve done for the last 30 years,” or go with the Republican plan and put it all on the credit card so “you and your kids can pay 100 percent plus interest over the next 40 years.”
“It’s not an easy vote, but it’s the right vote,” Lamont said. “And I really need you all to stand up.”
The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee approved a bill Wednesday that will be the vehicle for the toll proposal, however, there were few if any details available.
Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee, said there will be 50 or fewer gantries, discounts for Connecticut residents, and no more than 4.4 cents a mile during peak travel periods.
Under questioning from Republicans, Lemar said he couldn’t give any more details because it was all still subject to negotiations.
Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, said it seems like Democrats are throwing anything they can against the wall to get approval, including the latest proposal to lower CT Transit fares from $1.75 to $1.
Lemar said they were trying to put together the best transportation system into the future, which includes the best discount and value for Connecticut residents. He acknowledged that it’s taking time to come up with that plan.
Lemar told them they weren’t putting together a toll system based on a revenue number.
He said it’s estimated to bring in anywhere between $700 and $800 million a year, not the $1.2 billion or the $920 million estimated by previous studies. He said they were not backing into a number and would be guided by building a system that serves Connecticut.