Electronic Toll bill passes key committee vote

Cars pass under toll sensor gantries hanging over the Massachusetts Turnpike, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, in Newton, Mass. The state Department of Transportation is discussing plans for demolishing the tollbooths as it gets ready to implement an all-electronic tolling system on Interstate 90 which runs the length of the state. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut is at a crossroads and that crossroad includes a toll. The legislature’s Transportation Committee gave the green light to a bill that would bring ‘Electronic Tolling’ to Connecticut highways.

“The bottom line for the general public that I am hearing from is; this is just another tax and it’s a tax on those that least can afford to pay it,” said Transportation Committee co-chair Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton).

Republicans led the charge against imposing ‘Electronic Tolls’ on Connecticut highways, making the point that the state has chronically used transportation funds for other things.

“I’m afraid I don’t feel in a position to trust what the state will do with the revenue it would collect,” said committee member Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton).

Related Content: Is political pendulum swinging toward approving highway tolls?

“We have a history and a habit of sweeping funds out of the ‘Special Transportation Fund’ into the ‘General Fund‘ for general expenditures when money is tight,” said Committee member Rep. Jesse MacLachlan (R-Clinton).

But Committee co-chair Rep. Tony Guererra (D-Rocky Hill) remarked that the Federal Government now says that any money raised from highway tolls must be used for infrastructure and nothing else, otherwise federal highway funds could be in jeopardy. Lawmakers have also been told that the ‘Transportation Fund‘ will run out of gas within the next two years because the current ‘Gas Tax‘ is bringing in few and fewer dollars.

Related Content: State ‘Transportation Fund’ running out of gas

‘Electronic Tolls’ are also seen as a way to get out of state drivers, passing through, to help foot the bill.

“People that use these roads everyday that are not Connecticut residents and that don’t contribute a bit to the detriment and deterioration of our roads,” said committee member Rep. Russ Morin (D-Wethersfield).

Guerrera, who’se been pushing for this for years has finally convinced Democrats that had been on the fence to vote for the plan which now includes a gradual 2.5 cent cut in the ‘Gas Tax’ plus a provision that would have out of stater drivers pay a higher toll than Connecticut residents.  

“Billions of dollars of bridge work is needed. We’ve had a couple of collapses in Connecticut already,” said Committee member Sen. Steve Casano (D-Manchester).

“Finally we’re getting the understanding that tolls is the fairest way of doing this,” said Guererra on today’s vote.

The bill is now slated to move to the full House of Representatives.

The final vote was 19 yes, 16 no.

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