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Lamont, Once Reluctant, Now Open To Broader Highway Tolls

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Jessica Hill
/
AP
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont delivers his State of the State address at the State Capitol in Hartford in January. The governor will unveil his first budget proposal to legislators Wednesday.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s decision to expand his truck-only highway toll proposal to include all vehicles is getting mixed reaction from state lawmakers. Republicans accuse the Democratic governor of a bait and switch from his campaign promise. Democrats say the expanded tolls are more realistic.

Lamont announced his expanded highway toll proposal in an op-ed published over the weekend. He’s since said he’s willing to have a conversation about it. State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, a Republican from North Haven, said Lamont’s move to expand tolls is a disappointing step backwards.

“I’m hoping that he did this to start a conversation about different things we should do. I don’t believe tolls is the right thing to do. Hopefully he’s not thinking about going back on what he campaigned for…I know he walked back a little on his statement from Saturday till today by saying this is meant to have a conversation, we have to talk about it, so I’m going to give him that benefit of the doubt and hopefully that is what we are going to do.”

Lamont ran on the promise to charge tolls on trucks only. A similar toll in Rhode Island is being challenged in court by the trucking industry.

State Senate President Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat, said the governor’s expanded toll proposal is the right move. He said the Republican alternative to only fund transportation projects through bonds and public-private partnership is unrealistic.

“It would completely wipe out funding we normally do for school construction, for municipal aid projects, for capital projects for nonprofits, and all of the legitimate reasons we do bonding, including for higher education.”

Details of Lamont’s toll proposal will be contained in his first budget to be presented to lawmakers on Wednesday. Other ideas include a 10 cent tax on single-use plastic bags, a 75 percent rate increase on vaping products, a 25 cent deposit on wine and liquor bottles, and a tax on sugary drinks.

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As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.