The new Connecticut General Assembly session started just two weeks ago, and one of the first bills filed in the new session calls for highway tolls for all vehicles. The bill was filed by a new Democratic state lawmaker who said that she actually campaigned in favor of tolls even though she was advised not to.
That new Democratic state lawmaker is starting town hall meetings on tolls in her downstate district on Tuesday night in New Canaan, Wednesday in Stamford and Thursday in Greenwich.
“I’ve introduced a very broad bill just to get the discussion going,” said Sen. Alex Bergstein (D-Greenwich). The discussion Democratic Senator Bergstein is starting is about electronic highway tolls to generate money to rebuild bridges and highways and improve mass transit.
She said that despite being advised not to, she campaigned in favor of tolls and won in a district that’s been in Republican hands since 1930.
She added, “Every reasonable report in the business community is in favor of installing electronic tolls, so that is the discussion we need to have. Whether it’s popular or not is not the point.”
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) noted, “Traffic is a big issue for us in Fairfield County, and trying to find ways in which we can get some relief.”
But anti-toll demonstrators showed up on the very first day of the legislative session on Governor Lamont’s inaugural parade route. That opposition has spawned website and Facebook pages, and one of the organizers of NoTollsCT.org, Patrick Sasser of Stamford, said they are organizing people to oppose tolls of any kind.
He said, “What that’s going to do is hurt the working class. It’s going to hurt the working poor who have to travel through our state to get to their jobs. People already are struggling just to survive in our state.”
Republican leaders in the Assembly are standing fast in saying that their plan to continue to just use the state’s borrowing capacity to improve roads and public transportation without tolls can work.
Opponents of that idea have said it would use up all of the state’s borrowing capacity, leaving nothing left for things like local school construction. The Republican leader in the Senate, Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven), said, “That’s just a myth and a lie that they’re putting out there to discourage our bill from going forward.”
Senator Bertstein’s bill would call for tolls on all vehicles. She said she doesn’t believe Rhode Island’s ‘trucks only tolling’ will survive a court challenge. Governor Lamont has consistently said he is only in favor of tolls on out of state trucks.