Lawmakers, Lamont expected to continue transportation talks
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont and bipartisan legislative leaders hope to overcome a bottleneck next week on how to fund major transportation projects across Connecticut, but it appears the Democratic governor and Democratic lawmakers have already agreed to back a plan with truck-only tolls.
Minority Republicans have indicated they can’t support that compromise.
“I think it’s very difficult for Republicans to support a toll plan,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven, who told Democrats to “go for it” if they want to vote on a package that includes tolls.
A spokesman for Lamont said the Democratic governor plans to meet again with legislative leaders sometime next week to continue discussing ways to fund his $21.3 billion CT2030 plan. Lamont said earlier this week, after meeting with Democrats and Republicans for hours at the executive residence, that his administration is “ready to talk” and finally reach an agreement on a 10-year plan to improve roads, bridges, airports, rail and bus service. But he stressed time is of the essence.
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the goal is to pass a transportation package before the General Assembly convenes its regular legislative session in February.
“It’s absolutely essential that we get this done,” said Looney, who has thrown his support for truck-only tolls.
While theoretically the Democrats have enough votes to pass a plan, it’s not clear whether there’s enough support for this latest concept — offered by the House Democrats — of installing a dozen bridge tolls for only trucks, a proposal that’s projected to generate about $180 million annually in new revenue. Democratic leaders have made it clear to Lamont they don’t have enough support among their rank-and-file members for tolling passenger vehicles as well.
Like other proposals on the table, this latest version would also include different forms of borrowing. But Lamont has voiced concern with the Senate Republican proposal, which includes a complicated plan that involves spending $1.5 billion in state budget reserves to help reduce more expensive borrowing costs.
Democrats are also raising the idea of possibly enacting a state constitutional amendment that would prevent tolling on passenger vehicles, in hopes of dispelling concerns that truck tolls would ultimately lead to everyone having to pay the fees.