HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont cheated a little on his so-called debt diet in order to get his transportation package across the finish line.
Lamont, who didn’t want to bond more than $1.3 billion this year when he announced a debt diet for Connecticut last year, decided to bond $1.7 billion this year with $100 million of that going to transportation.
Lamont borrowed about $1.25 billion during his first year in office.
“We’re going to be borrowing significantly less than they have on average over the last eight years,” Lamont said Monday. “That I can tell you.”
Lamont has been unwilling to approve a bond package until the General Assembly passes a transportation package that includes truck-only tolls.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides it was yet “another promise made, and broken, by Governor Lamont.” She said she didn’t want to hear “posturing like on average over the last eight years’.”
She said the average is so high because former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy borrowed $2.7 billion in one year.
“This governor started out wanting to put the bonding under $1 billion, now he’s closer to $2 billion,” Klarides said. “This is why there is no trust in the leadership in Hartford. They give their word, then they take it back.”
Lamont said Wall Street is going to be happy they are “not raiding the rainy day fund” and not borrowing “$700 or $800 million,” for transportation.
“We’ve saved over $15 million in borrowing costs over the last six months,” Lamont said. “It makes a big difference to let people know we’ve got our fiscal house in order.”
Lamont and Democratic lawmakers did not make details of the bond package publicly available Monday and the governor was not willing to say it would happen during a special session. The transportation package and getting a vote on that has been Lamont’s priority since he took office.
The Transportation Committee is expected to hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. Friday on the transportation package and the General Assembly is expected to convene on Monday or Tuesday next week for a special session.
The transportation legislation, released late Monday, proposes 12 truck-only bridge tolls.
Asked about the decision to hold a special session, so close to the regular session, Lamont said “I think people are ready to vote.”
“We’re going to turn the page. We’re going to show people we’ve got an honestly balanced budget. We’re going to show people we’ve got a transportation fund that’s solvent for the foreseeable future,” Lamont said. “They’ll see we’re slowly bringing our roads and bridges up to a state of good repair.”
The 32-page transportation package authorizes the Department of Transportation to hire a toll operator and allows the DOT Commissioner to start charging $6 to $13 per gantry to only heavy trucks. There will be discounts for EZ Pass holders.
Also trucks will not “pay more than one toll per tolled bridge, per day in each direction.”
The new Transportation Policy Council created in the legislation will be allowed to change the toll rate of any tolled bridge by the rate of inflation or a rate based on the construction cost index.
Lamont estimated Monday that truck-only tolls will bring in about $180 million in revenue, which will then be used to leverage the low-interest loans from the federal government.