HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–The incredibly hot topic of bringing electronic highway tolls to Connecticut finally came before the Connecticut House of Representatives this afternoon.
But after about an hour of impassioned debate, the issue did not come up for a vote and is expected to be brought up again in the Special Budget Session later this month.
With the narrower margin in the House with 79 Democrats and 72 Republicans, passing controversial bills has become much more difficult. So the leadership is allowing debates, but then not calling for a vote.
During the floor debate Rep. Tom D’Odea (R-New Canaan) said, “Whether you’re talking about Bridgeport or Stamford or New Haven, this is a tax on those that can least afford it.” After passing the so-called “Lockbox Constitutional Amendment” to require all money raised for transportation be spent on transportation, House leaders moved ahead with debate on the one of the most controversial topics of the General Assembly Session, clearing the way for the D.O.T. to decide where to impose electronic tolling gantries like these on highways across the state.
“Let’s do this bill. Let’s do the responsible thing for the people of Connecticut. Let’s make sure that our infrastructure is put in place properly that will help families and businesses alike,” said Rep. Russ Morin (D-Wethersfield).
Rep. Catherine Abercrombie (D-Meriden) added, “Tolls are going to come eventually folks..we all know it. So let’s bite the bullet and do it now.”
But Republican Devin Carney (R-Old Lyme) said, “This is asking too much, too much of Connecticut residents.”
The plan calls for a 5 cent reduction in the Connecticut gasoline tax over a five year period after the state’s special transportation fund is replenished from the toll revenue, but opponents say that would result in Connecticut residents overpaying to use the roads.
Rep. O’Dea made the point, “When we enacted or took away the tolls back in the 80’s, we raised the gas tax 25 cents. Reduce the gas tax 25 cents and then we can talk about putting in tolls.”
Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton) added, “I think this proposal which purports to bring in all this wonderful revenue and solve the transportation problems for Connecticut is hoodwinking taxpayers.”
The presumption is that because of the money involved, the issue can come up in the special budget session later this month. The Speaker is planning the same strategy on the recreational marijuana bill.