Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce members washed down their breakfast Tuesday morning with some talk on tolls, regionalization and stabilizing the state’s spending.
Topics ranging from transportation spending to reducing the state’s debt were on the menu during Gov. Ned Lamont’s keynote address before a packed house of area business people and state and local lawmakers at the chamber’s 55th annual meeting held at Brownson Country Club in Shelton.
“I am optimistic, but I can’t look at life through rose-colored glasses,” said Lamont, as he held up a pair of such glasses that were given to each attendee. “I am very clear on what we have to do in this state.”
And for Lamont that is getting the state’s “fiscal house in order” by reducing debt and focusing on increasing revenues, all while pushing for transportation improvements — using his preferred payment method, electronic tolls — and developing a workforce trained for 21st century job opportunities.
On the issue of transportation, Lamont called on those in attendance to urge lawmakers to support electronic tolls, calling the Republican plan of “prioritized progress,” which calls for $700 million in borrowing, not a sustainable option.
“We need to be very careful in terms of how much more debt we place on the Connecticut taxpayers,” said Lamont. “I know this is not popular, but it is real, the idea of a user fee to pay for transportation expenses. That user fee would be collected through electronic tolls.
“I get the idea that this is just another money grab, that we’re just pouring money down the rathole, DOT costs a fortune, and you’re asking middle class people to pay for it,” said the governor, adding that there will be incentive for lower wage workers to aid in covering some of the toll costs. “I have to do a better job of showing people that we get it. I need to convince people that investing in transportation … is the most fundamental investment we can make to get the state growing again.”