WALLINGFORD — Republicans touted their plan to fund transportation without highway tolls at Town Hall Wednesday night just hours after Gov. Ned Lamont gave details on his vision for tolls.
About 150 people attended the public forum hosted by state Republican legislators Sen. Len Fasano and Rep. Craig Fishbein. Both represent Wallingford.
During a news conference earlier in the day, Lamont said the Transportation Committee is working on combining three tolling bills into one bill to put before the state legislature.
Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, Transportation Committee co-chairman, said tolls would create “a dedicated revenue stream” to fund transportation infrastructure repairs and upgrades. Tolls would bring in $800 million annually, according to Democratic estimates.
“Many voices still need to weigh in on what we need to do,” Leone said. “One of the things that I think we can all agree on is that doing nothing is not an option.”
Forty percent of transportation costs could be paid for by drivers from out of state, around $320 million a year, Lamont said.
During the Wednesday night forum, Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, said that 60 percent of toll revenue would be paid by Connecticut residents, around $645 million. Adding the $500 million in gas taxes, residents would be paying $1.1 billion in transportation costs.
Republicans have proposed a plan called Prioritize Progress, which would rely on bonding.
Sen. Henri Martin, D-Bristol, presented information on Prioritize Progress at the tolls forum. He said its goal is to stabilize the Special Transportation Fund and not raise taxes.
Transportation projects would take precedent when determining which projects get funding from the state Bond Commission.
Connecticut has a $1.9 billion cap on bonding. This was included in the most recent budget, which got support from Democrats and Republicans.
Prioritize Progress would likely mean allocating as much as $700 million in bonding for transportation, according to the presentation.
The other Transportation Committee co-chairman, Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, said the plan would “crowd out” other state projects.
“Prioritize Progress is probably the least responsible economic development plan you could possibly imagine,” he said.
Lamont said more bonding would negatively affect the state’s bond rating.
Lamont’s plan proposes 50 gantries along four major highways, Interstates 91, 95, 84 and Route 15. Republicans claim other roads, like Route 7, may be included, raising the number of gantries to 82.
Thurston Foods CEO Peter Malone spoke at the forum. He said the perception is that trucks from out-of-state don't pay anything, when in fact they pay road use and fuel taxes.
He said tolls would cost his company $200,000 to $300,000 annually. Those costs to move freight would be passed along to the consumer, he added.
On Tuesday, the Wallingford Town Council passed a resolution 5-3 opposing tolls. The resolution was suggested by Fishbein, also a Town Council member.
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