Lawmakers struggling to pass vote on next step for tolls - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmakers struggling to pass vote on next step for tolls

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

No matter how much talk there is about the state's bad roads and bridges, lawmakers are still struggling to get enough support for tolls.

The state House of Representatives discussed the matter Wednesday and was expected to vote, but it was canceled with the House speaker saying he was still working on getting more support.

He blames it on the "anti-toll movement."

"There is so much misinformation out there," said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz.

This bill falls short of immediately bringing back tolls. Instead, it requires a second vote next year before tolls can be enacted.

It also first requires the Department of Transportation to conduct a study, which is what lawmakers are expected to vote on first.

Lawmakers warned that the state's special transportation fund is expected to run out next year.

Opponents to the tolls simply call it another tax.

Under a proposal, Connecticut drivers would get a financial break on tolls.

Drivers with E-ZPass would receive a roughly 30-percent discount. State commuters or frequent users with an E-ZPass could get an additional 20 percent reduction.

The rates per mile would be between 3.5 cents and 5.5 cents depending on peak times.

An average trip from Hartford to New Haven would range between $1.33 to $1.67.

"If they don't want to do electronic tolling so be it, but show me where you're going to get that money, show me a plan that works," said Democratic State Rep. Tony Guerrera.

"These are all pie in the sky ideas because they are afraid of revenue because they have not budgeted properly," said Republican State Rep. Themis Klarides.

Lawmakers said they are also considering an income tax rebate for drivers and other breaks, including gas tax cuts.

That, too, would require a study, according to the proposal's supporters.

Republicans say tolls are not the way to go. Their budget has a plan for transportation, they want to borrow the money, $1 billion a year, which could hurt other projects like new school construction.

Last year, the vote on tolls was voted in the Senate but two votes short in the House.

Joe Brennan from the Connecticut Business and Industry Association said businesses want better roads and many would support tolls as long as the money raised goes only to transportation.

"I think there's a growing cynicism about government. We have been told many times monies are going to go for this project to solve that problem and those problems are never solved. It goes into the black hole of government,” Brennan said.

Many support a lock box, which means money raised for transportation would be only be used for transportation. A vote on the lock box will be held in November’s election, but it may just be symbolic for now, especially if no vote is taken on tolls.

Lawmakers have until May 9 to make a decision on any tolls. That's when the session adjourns.

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