The Board of Aldermen, in a special meeting Thursday, March 28, approved a resolution “strongly” opposing the creation of tolls on Connecticut highways. With this move, the aldermen joined Shelton state legislators in opposition to tolls.
In voting unanimously, the Aldermen stated that the need for this resolution was based on the officials’ "concern for public safety and the economic welfare of the citizens of Shelton," considering all the unknowns that remain about any toll implementation plan.
Anglace said the resolution will be sent to Gov. Ned Lamont and the state legislature with the hope that both parties rethink methods of paying for transportation infrastructure.
"Connecticut’s economy is in need of tax stability to attract jobs and economic investment,” stated the Aldermen in its resolution. “Tolls would prove counterproductive to the citizen’s and the state’s economic interests.
"The tolls and tax increases, etc., will drain more money from the pockets of Shelton taxpayers/citizens, and such toll costs will be passed on to them as consumers making it more difficult than ever for Shelton families to make ends meet,” according to the resolution.
Majority Democrats on a key committee Wednesday, March 20, hammered through three toll-related bills.
The trio of party-line votes of the Transportation Committee started at about 4:45 and finished by 5:15, after about three hours of partisan debate. The related bills will give legislative leaders and Lamont a variety of tolling options for final talks heading toward the early June adjournment date.
State legislators stress that exact details of the tolling plan, which likely could not go into effect until around 2022, might not be finalized until federal officials review an overall plan. After the vote, Lamont said that tolls are better for the state’s fiscal health.
The general plan is to install electronic equipment along Interstates 91, 95 and 84, as well as the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways, at a cost to drivers of up to 6 cents per mile, to generate up to $1 billion annually.
The Aldermen voted for this resolution “in the hope that all political parties be consulted along with the Governor to rethink our Transportation Infrastructure needs and their funding mechanisms to lessen the impact on Connecticut citizens.”
The Aldermen’s resolution states that the proposal to install tolls throughout Connecticut is based on a transportation infrastructure plan that has not been made public, and the Transportation Committee has no schedule to vet the biggest spending plan ever proposed in Connecticut
“Tolls were only one part of the revenues determined necessary to fund the 2016 Transportation Finance Panel’s Infrastructure proposal,” stated the resolution, “and this ‘pie in the sky’ valuation, if approved, would require that the revenue from tolls (expected to be $1 billion annually) would have to be supplemented with a plethora of other taxes; such as an increased gasoline tax, an increase in the sales tax, an increase in the number of items subject to the sales tax, an increase in the petroleum Gross Receipts tax, an increase in motor vehicle license fees, an increase in rail, bus and parking fees, and an increase in the state income tax, and by shifting unfunded mandates onto the backs of CT municipalities.”
The Aldermen also noted, that with tolls on the highways, officials and residents are concerned about increased traffic on secondary roads causing local safety and congestion issues.
City officials’ voices have now joined Shelton state legislators in voicing their opposition to tolls, and state Rep. Ben McGorty (R-122) cast his vote against the three proposals in the Transportation Committee hearing on March 20.
“Placing 53 tolls on I-95, I-91, I-84, and Route 15 will cost residents more to go to work and is going to lead to higher cost on everyday items,” said McGorty. “Tolls are just a way from the state to take more of our money and is a major tax on working families. It’s a shame that the majority party won’t consider different funding plans and are using scare tactics to make Connecticut residents believe that we need tolls.”
The three bills, Senate Bill 423, House Bill 7202 and 7280, all include tolling cars and trucks and tolls on I-95, I-91, I-84, and portions of Route 15. S.B. 423 and H.B. 7202, said McGorty, take legislative oversight out of tolls and direct the Department of Transportation to oversee tolls — meaning DOT would be able to raise rates without legislative approval.
State Rep. Jason Perillo (R-113) said “Democrats in Hartford want you to believe that tolls are the only way — this is false. Republicans have a plan to repair the state’s outdated infrastructure and the plan should be considered by all lawmakers and the public before 53 tolls are placed throughout the state.”
“I don’t understand what purpose this resolution will serve,” said Dave Gioiello, chairman of the city’s Democratic town committee. “Our roads are in terrible shape. Tolls have been around since the beginning of this country when private owners charged to cross their bridges.”
Gioiello said the current gas tax is not bringing in sufficient funds to fix the roads.
Mike Mayko contributed to this article.