Connecticut House Democrats say they will soon schedule a special session to vote on Governor Ned Lamont’s stalled $20 billion transportation infrastructure plan that includes tolls. Republicans remain skeptical that the Democrats have the votes to pass the plan.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz came out of a caucus meeting with his members on Tuesday to say that they were almost ready to move forward with the plan that calls for 12 highway tolls on bridges, and only for large commercial trucks.
“I feel very comfortable based on the conversations, and the conversations we’ve had over the last three years, about our transportation infrastructure, that we are in a position to move Connecticut forward and end this debate once and for all.”
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter says members of his caucus see the plan as an economic boost for the state, despite the reintroduction of highway tolls.
“It will lead to $20 billion of highway infrastructure improvements. When the economy does hit a recession, which it probably will in the next 10 years or five years maybe sooner, we will be putting people to work at an alarming rate compared to where we are now, on construction projects. Those are good things, and we think our caucus supports that.”
Roland Lemar, House chair of the Transportation Committee, says there are still a few tweaks to be made because local delivery trucks want to be exempt from tolls.
“So the structure of our conversations are much larger scale, whether it’s 18-weelers, not your traditional box trucks.”
That would reduce the estimated amount of revenue from tolls. Speaker Aresimowicz admits the tweaks are slowing down the bill.
“There’s been no official drafting of the bill. We have maybe bullet points. The House chair and the Senate chair have to meet. Getting them together I think will still take some time. I still think we are looking at the middle of January to the end of January.”
The regular legislative session begins in February. That’s prompted Republican legislative leaders to remain skeptical that the Democrats have the votes to pass their transportation plan that includes tolls.
“They don’t have a bill. They don’t have a plan. They say it’s changing as we talk. The revenue is going down. What is going on?”
That’s Len Fasano, GOP minority leader in the state Senate. He believes the Democrats don’t have the votes.
“My argument is if you want to put it up, put it up. But [don’t] keep posturing and saying we’ve got the votes, we are going to do it. We’ve heard that since look, April of last year, March of last year.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides believes the Democrats will not be able to sell a highway toll plan to Connecticut voters.
“What they know is that we are putting in tolls in this state that will take more money out of their pocket. And saying that is was 88 tolls, then it was 53 tolls, then it was 16, then it was trucks only and then it wasn’t. And this has changed day in, day out. They know that they do not trust the government of Connecticut to keep their word.”
In the meantime, Governor Ned Lamont wants Democrats to push on. He says he’s ready to sell a toll plan to the public.
“I’m pretty confident I think this is moving along. Nobody wants to raid the rainy day fund. Nobody wants to borrow $700 million a year. And they think this is the best way to do it. So let’s get it done.”
Lamont is to promote his transportation plan at a town hall meeting on Sunday at Bedford Middle School in Westport.
Democratic leaders say a vote will probably be scheduled after next Tuesday’s special election to fill a couple of vacant seats in the General Assembly.