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October 16, 2019Cart

Business

by Fairfield County Business Journal
by FCBJ

Lamont, focusing on budget, pushes tolls to special session

The issue of whether Connecticut will bring back highway tolls will wait until after the regular session of the General Assembly ends on June 5, as Gov. Ned Lamont said he is focused mainly on delivering a “fiscally responsible budget.”

As a result, a special session of the legislature will be scheduled for after the June 5 deadline.

“I’ve said time and time again that the most important work we can do is to stabilize our state’s economy and give businesses the confidence to stay and grow or relocate here,” the governor said. “Passing a fiscally responsible budget early is the first part of that equation. Doing so will allow mayors and first selectmen to know – for certain – what their budgets will look like for the next biennium and allow them to plan accordingly.

“The second part of the equation is to tackle our woefully under-resourced transportation infrastructure system,” he said. “We know it’s slowing our economic growth and hampering our competitiveness. Let’s take the opportunity to do this – together, with Republicans and Democrats – in a way that provides the investments our state needs without overly burdening our own residents.”

Lamont released the working draft of the Transportation Infrastructure Investment proposal, which he said the co-chairs of the state transportation committee have agreed to. As previously reported, the proposal includes installing no more than 50 toll gantries along Interstates 95, 91, and 84 and parts of Route 15.

The rates would be set at 4-and-a-half cents per mile during peak driving hours and 3-and-a-half cents during off-peak. The governor is also proposing the creation of a commission controlled by lawmakers that would decide on the specific gantry locations, oversee rates and determine how toll revenues would be distributed.

The plan also discusses improvements to the viaduct on Interstate 84 in Hartford; to the Mixmaster on Interstate 84 in Waterbury; to the interchange between Interstates 84 and 91; to Interstate 95; and to the Hero’s Tunnel in New Haven, among others.

Republicans have remained adamant in their opposition to tolls. Last week, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano questioned the governor’s priorities.

“While Gov. Lamont is putting all his effort into tolls, he seems oblivious to the fact that his budget remains severely out of balance and is worsening by the day as Democrats approve more and more spending,” Fasano said. “We still have no update on where the governor is in labor negotiations, which he is counting on for hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. We have no idea where he is on hospital tax negotiations. We have no idea if his State Employment Retirement System and Teachers Retirement System reamortization plans – which push more debt onto future generations – will move forward. We only have two and a half weeks left and Democrat leadership appears lost.”