HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Gov. Ned Lamont's first crack at a budget proposal received mixed reactions that continued into Thursday.

Most notably, it was his talk of tolls as a means to fix the state's transportation infrastructure.

Lamont held a news conference Thursday morning near the I-84 viaduct in Hartford, which he used as an example.

"I'm hearing from a lot of guys who are ready to get to work and rebuilding these roads and bridges means thousands of really good paying jobs for folks in labor here in this state," Lamont said.

He said the aging stretch of highway was built on elevated structures to avoid a nearby railroad and was constructed in the 1960s. It was designed to carry 55,000 vehicles per day. Now, it carries roughly 175,000.

Lamont said the span requires significant annual costs to maintain.

Replacement projects are estimated to cost anywhere between $2 billion to $5.3 billion.

Lamont pitched a number of revenue-generating proposals during his budget address on Wednesday.

Read the full budget proposal here.

He started out by saying he wanted to get the state moving again; however, that meant that there had to be sacrifices.

During his gubernatorial campaign, he said he would only seek tolls for tractor trailers.

This past weekend, he said he is now considering a second option that would include cars, but with deep discounts for state residents.

"I know this idea of tolling just sounds like 'one more damn tax I am going to have to pay' and I cannot fix this state unless I fix our transportation system," Lamont said on Wednesday.

State Republican leaders were quick to respond.

"I don't think taxpayers want to spend 50 cents, a buck, 3 bucks everyday they are on the road," said Sen. Len Fasano, the senate minority leader. "I think they're tired of people being in their wallets."

Lamont's office estimated that a trucks-only toll system would generate $200 million a year.

It said a system that includes all vehicles would garner $800 million a year.

While the construction industry supports tolls, they don't like what Lamont's budget does to current projects.

"As transportation advocates we are very concerned on the short term. Tolls are interesting, but its a long term funding source," said Don Shubert, of the CT Construction Industry Association.

Lamont's budget eliminates $250 million in bonding, and greatly reduces how much money goes into transportation.

Republicans said the loss is about $1 billion over five years.

"I don't understand how Gov. Lamont can say infrastructure is important. Transportation is important but I am going to starve the transportation fund," Fasano said.

Even if tolls were approve, it would take a few years to install.

Federal money may not help with tolls, but it could pay for a tunnel, which would replace the overpass  on the viaduct and create more riverfront space.

"The federal government has to step up to the plate. I am on the committee, ways and means we are going to get an infrastructure bill done," said Congressman John Larson.

Bonding was approved for a $10 million study, which is required if CT moves forward with tolls.

Lamont, however, has put the study on hold until he sees what lawmakers are prepared to do.

Lamont said he also wants state workers to pitch in by renegotiating raises, an idea to which union members have been strongly opposed.

Talk about a possible grocery tax was tabled; however, the governor spoke about potentially expanding the state's sales tax to include legal services, haircuts, dry cleaning and veterinary services.

He also wants to put fees on plastic bags and add deposits to wine and liquor bottles.

Several of those ideas had already been proposed by former Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Lamont's full address can be read here.

Legislators will spend the next few months tweaking and re-writing and even throwing out some of Lamont's budget proposal.

"Tolls are a conversation. Right now we have to talk about widening the sales tax base, implications to cities and towns with less funding for teacher retirement," said Republican State Senator Paul Formica.

The deficit, close to $4 billion over the next two years, could pressure lawmakers to finally consider tolls, recreational marijuana, and sports betting.

There's also a wish list. Lamont wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and require CT companies to provide paid family medical leave, which would require all employees to pay a portion.

Stay with Channel 3 for continuing coverage of the governor's budget proposals.

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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(2) comments

Feddup

Are CT registered boats still exempt from property tax, unlike campers, RVs, boat trailers, and motorcycles?

wwilber

Roads are a must. Tolls are a problem. The DOT is the main problem in this state. No supervision,lack of a work ethic,gaming the system, and the waste. In addition why much there be a sidewalk that goes nowhere such as the one at the intersection of the Derby Milford Rd and rt. 34 in Derby, Ct. This was an extra cost of over $80,000.00 and is a joke. The governor should take a look at it and then decide

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