HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont’s request that the General Assembly take a vote on a highway tolling plan before the end of the session on June 5 doesn’t seem to have much of a chance of happening.
Lamont this week asked legislators to make a priority of voting on the tolling plan before the end of the session after leaders stated that it was more likely that the complex issue would be better handled at a special session once the General Assembly concludes all its other business on June 5.
“He (Lamont) would like us to move forward as soon as possible,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said at a Thursday morning press briefing. “I just don’t think it’s possible.”
“It will be very difficult to pull off a vote on tolls before we adjourn,” Aresimowicz added.
The problem with forcing a vote on tolls, which would guarantee a lengthy, multi-hour debate in both the House and Senate, is the other important bills that would have to fall by the wayside as the clock ticks toward the end of the session.
“What else would not get done if we did tolls?” said Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, House majority leader. “Time is precious.”
Crafting a toll bill, in and of itself, has proven time-consuming and it’s still not complete.
So far, not a single House or Senate Republican has come out and said he or she will support any toll bill, which is still largely unpopular with Connecticut drivers.
A new poll conducted by Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy and the Hartford Courant shows that 59 percent of Connecticut residents oppose tolling on the state’s highways.
In addition, the poll states that 51.3% of those who support tolls largely do so with the provision that money collected go into a transportation “lockbox” account to be used only for road and bridge improvements and infrastructure repairs. The lockbox bill passed last year in a statewide referendum.
When given two options for infrastructure repairs, respondents were slightly more in favor of using toll revenue than borrowing funds, 33.2% to 27.2%. Among these respondents, 49.3% of Democrats preferred instituting tolls to pay for infrastructure improvements compared to only 20.9% of Republicans reporting the same.
Opposition against implementing electronic tolls was strongest among residents between the ages of 35 to 44 (63%) and residents between the ages of 45 to 64 years old (64.5%). Strong opposition to “e-tolling” was also reported among those earning $50,000 to $100,000 (63.2%) and those earning $150,000 or more (60%).
The poll surveyed 1,000 Connecticut residents by phone and was conducted between May 10 and May 23. It has a 3% margin of error.
“In terms of public opinion on tolls, the needle has not moved,” Lesley DeNardis, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy, said. “Opposition to tolls has remained steady over the last few months.”
“Postponing a vote until a special legislative session this summer suggests the administration needs additional time to make its case,” DeNardis added.