Tolling bill facing multiple roadblocks

(Image: Shutterstock)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — One top legislative leader says electronic tolls could be on Connecticut highways within 18 months. That same leader says a bill on electronic tolls will come up for a vote next month, but the Governor and others are saying, ‘not so fast’.

A bill to establish electronic tolls passed the Transportation Committee on a party line vote one month ago.  Now the Finance Committee is considering a bill that would implement tolls as a funding mechanism for Connecticut’s transportation needs.

“The ‘Special Transportation Fund‘ will have nearly a zero balance come 2020,” said Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) the Speaker of the House.  The D.O.T. has told lawmakers that receipts from the taxes on gasoline are declining so rapidly that borrowing for transportation construction projects will soon come to a dead end.

That urgency has prompted the Speaker of the House to declare he will likely move a bill to install electronic tolls on Connecticut highways next month saying, “Time frame wise I would say it’s going to be in May.”   He adds we could see them operating within about 18 months, “I think, potentially, a year and a half, based up on the information we’re getting from other states.”

But even if it passes the House, a tolling bill would face several roadblocks.  Most notably from the Democratic leader in the Senate and the Governor.  “If they want to do that, they better pass the ‘lockbox,’ said Governor Malloy.   Adds Democratic Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk),  “My focus is on the ‘lockbox’ rather than thinking about tolls.”

But the House Speaker says,  “We don’t need the ‘lockbox’ for this.”  The Speaker says it isn’t necessary to bring a ‘lockbox’ consitutional amendment before voters in 2018. An amendment that says all money raised for transportation must be spent on transporation,  “We can’t divert it, we can’t spend it anywhere else. It has to go back into transportation based upon the ‘Federal Highway Act’ that allowed us to take em down and then, now put them back up.”

The other roadblock is the 18 to 18 split in the State Senate, where all Republicans would be expected to vote against a tolling bill and where Wilton Republican State Senator Toni Boucher is making it her mission to put any tolling bill in a dead stop,  “Just one person on the other side of the isle that doesn’t agree with this kills that bill and I’m going to do everything in my power
to make sure that this bill is defeated and doesn’t move forward.”

Despite projections that the ‘Special Transportation Fund’ will be in the red in about two years Republicans insist transportation projects can be funded with the existing tax and bonding capacity.

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