Local residents packed into North Haven High School’s auditorium Monday evening to hear Republicans’ plan to fund transportation without the governor’s proposed highway tolls.
The event was hosted by ranking members on the Transportation Committee, Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, and Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol.
Questions were also fielded by Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, Rep. David Yaccarino, R-North Haven, Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, and Rep. Joe Zullo, R-East Haven.
A couple weeks ago, Gov. Ned Lamont laid out his plans for tolls, which he said would come before the state legislature by combining three tolling bills into one.
Lamont’s plan proposes 53 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.
Fasano said passing the bill would only mean authorizing Lamont to add tolls, arguing that after that, the legislatures’ opinions would not be sought as to how many or where the tolls should go.
Tolls would bring in $800 million annually, according to Democratic estimates.
During her presentation Monday night, Devlin said that 60 percent of toll revenue would be paid by Connecticut residents, around $645 million. Adding the $500 million in gas taxes, Republicans say residents would be paying $1.1 billion in transportation costs.
Republicans have proposed an alternative to tolling that they believe will still work to fix the state’s infrastructure problems, but through bonding instead of tolls. Their plan is called Prioritize Progress.
Martin presented information on Prioritize Progress during the forum, saying its goal is to stabilize the Special Transportation Fund without raising taxes.
Connecticut has a $1.9 billion cap on bonding that 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 GOP lawmakers’ presentation.
Zullo said that Prioritize Progress is a great solution for the present and a “predictable solution for the future,” especially compared to tolls, which the representatives said wouldn’t generate revenue for at least another five years, and be less predictable.
“One of the things that Prioritize Progress does is it delivers predictability, it delivers sustainability,” Zullo said during the forum.
He also said all the numbers that have been presented are hypothetical, even the ones put forth during the forum.
“Nobody has solid figures yet. Nobody has actually come to us and said, these are the figures, this is the plan, this is what it's going to cost to build, in a concrete fashion,” Zullo said. “We should not be being asked to vote on something like that and you should not be even asked to consider it.”
Some residents asked the group about the tolling plan, as well as Prioritize Progress. Questions varied from whether Prioritize Progress would increase debt service expenditures, if the federal government could be petitioned to stop any toll plans that are approved by the state, and if their voices really mattered because tolls seem like a done deal.
The forum will be available to watch on NHTV, North Haven Community TV.
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