HARTFORD, CT – Gov. Ned Lamont has given up hope that the Democrat-controlled General Assembly has the guts to vote on a truck-only tolling plan.
After meeting with legislative leaders for 45-minutes Wednesday, Lamont invited reporters into his office to explain that he’s decided to borrow the $200 million that he previously planned to get in truck-only toll revenue.
It’s unclear if the administration can use that borrowing to access the low-interest federal loans, but he’s exploring it.
“I hate to do it this way,” Lamont said. “It’s bonding in place of other things that are priorities but right now there’s no other option on the table.”
Frustrated that his Democratic colleagues were unable to call a vote Lamont said he has a “legislature that doesn’t want to make a choice.”
He said he would solve the problem if the legislature was unwilling.
“I’ve lost patience,” a rosy-cheeked Lamont said.
It will mean there’s less money for cities and towns and other borrowing priorities of lawmakers.
“Transportation will crowd out some other priorities until they come up with a better way to pay for it,” the governor said. “I’m afraid the rubber hits the road and we’ve got to figure out what those other things are that we can’t afford.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said they have been trying to coordinate a vote for the past four weeks and “it has become very clear that the political will to act was not there. I advised the governor that he needs to do what he has to do, and legislators will have to accept whatever plan he decides to go with now.”
Aresimowicz said he still believes truck-only tolling that captures revenue from truckers would have been the right thing to do.
“We were poised to act in the House tomorrow, but we need our colleagues in the Senate as well and apparently their ability to also act was tenuous,” Aresimowicz said.
The finger-pointing and synchronized voting discussions have just prolonged the debate.
Democrats accused Republicans of threatening a 30-hour filibuster on the legislation.
“Taking money from the rainy day fund, no bill, no plan to vote instead they wanted to filibuster for 30 hours and waste all of our time,” Lamont said of Republicans.
But support in the Senate among Democrats also seemed to be wavering before that.
Senate President Martin Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff asked Lamont to give them five more days to allow their senators to make the necessary family arrangements.
“They’ve asked for another day, another week for let’s say six months now,” Lamont said.
Lamont said he had a handshake agreement on leaders that they would vote on Thursday, but tomorrow is Thursday and there’s been no vote scheduled.
“This is a place that specializes in kicking the can down the road and I won’t accept it,” Lamont said.
Senate Democrats said they still have the 18 votes they need to pass truck-only tolls.
“We are still confident that Senate Democrats have the votes to pass a comprehensive transportation plan which includes 12 toll gantries on 18-wheeler trucks only,” Looney and Duff said. “We are prepared to hold a session next week to vote on a bill to make the necessary transportation investments for Connecticut’s economic development, residents, and businesses.”
Republican legislative leaders are happy the toll fight seems to be over for the 2020 legislative session.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said the discussion of tolls has taken away from other business at the state Capitol.
“You cannot put business on hold week after week in Connecticut,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides said.
Both Fasano and Klarides said they would be surprised if the legislation was raised again before May 6.
She said the lesson from this is that it’s not productive to barrel forward with a partisan plan.
Gov Ned Lamont says he doesn’t expect legislature to vote on truck-only tolls and instead will bond for transportation.
Posted by CTNewsJunkie on Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Walker Strong contributed to this report.