christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Sen. Len Fasano describes his objections to the toll bill with Sen. Paul Formica at his side (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said he’s read the 32-page transportation package proposed by Democratic lawmakers and “it is absolutely unclear how these toll rates can get raised.”

Fasano said the truck-only part of the legislation allows rates to be raised without legislative authority.

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.

“So toll rates can be raised by an unelected body,” Fasano said.

Fasano said the other issue is the possibility of tolls on all passenger vehicles.

Democratic lawmakers have promised they have no intention of tolling all vehicles, which is why the legislation adds language to address the issue.

The bill says, “Connecticut shall not charge tolls for any class of vehicle other than large commercial trucks,” but the following few sentences make that less significant, Fasano said.

Fasano pointed to the words “adequate provision shall be made by law for the protection of the holders of such bonds.”

He said the language seeks to satisfy bondholders should the state fail to raise the necessary money to support the program. Fasano doesn’t believe that as it’s written, expansion of tolls would need a three-fifths vote of the legislature. Fasano said he believes only a simple majority would be needed to flip the switch to tolling all vehicles.

“After two years we could very well see cars and all trucks tolled in Connecticut without the fear of a bond covenant stopping them,” Fasano said.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano talks about the transportation bill released last night.

Posted by CTNewsJunkie on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Rep. Roland Lemar, co-chair of the Transportation Committee, said the section Fasano pointed to addresses the bondholders.

“We’ll continue to look at it over the next four days and figure out if there’s an appropriate language switch that we need to make,” Lemar said. “The intent was to have a three-fifths vote of the legislature to expand this to all vehicles.”

Max Reiss, a spokesman for Gov. Ned Lamont, said Fasano is “fear-mongering.”

“To no one’s surprise, it’s an election year and with little to show for how they have helped moved Connecticut forward, Republican legislators are reverting to the oldest play in the book: fear-mongering —  but Connecticut voters are smarter than that. They know what this bill is and what it isn’t,” Reiss said. “This bill only authorizes tolls to be collected on heavy 18-wheeler-and-above commercial trucks, and explicitly prohibits tolls on passenger vehicles.”

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said there’s no desire among lawmakers to expand tolling to all passenger vehicles.

“There’s broad-based opposition to passenger tolls,” Looney said.

He said there are contingencies written into the legislation “but that’s nothing I foresee happening. The level of opposition to passenger tolls is so strong that I see that as being a very remote, almost impossible situation to arise since there is such significant opposition to passenger tolls in all four caucuses.”

Also, no piece of legislation can tie the hands of a future legislature, so a future General Assembly could vote to move tolls to all vehicles, but Looney sees that as a remote possibility.

An informational hearing on the bill is expected to be held starting at 1 p.m. on Friday.

Senator Looney on new Transportation Bill.

Posted by CTNewsJunkie on Tuesday, January 28, 2020