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Dems ready to vote on tolls next week; Republicans cry foul over process

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Connecticut state Democratic leaders say they expect to hold a vote on the trucks-only tolls bill next week, having called off plans to vote on it before the General Assembly’s regular session, which begins Wednesday.

connecticut tollsGov. Ned Lamont and fellow Democrats had hoped to hold the vote during a special session following a Jan. 31 public hearing on the matter, but canceled those plans late last week. One of the sticking points was reportedly whether the Senate or House would vote on the bill first.

The public hearing went on as scheduled with various proponents and opponents on hand.

“This is an important issue, and there is no better investment the state can make than in our infrastructure,” Lamont said after the hearing. “Senate and House Democrats are showing leadership in this critical area, and I look forward to achieving the goal of passing a comprehensive infrastructure funding package during the week of February 10.”

The bill, “An Act Concerning the Stability of Connecticut’s Transportation Infrastructure,” would allow the state to charge tolls on tractor trailers at 12 highway bridges. Supporters of the bill say that at least half of the $150 million to $175 million per year expected to be collected would be from out-of-state truckers.

State Republicans, who have opposed tolls of any kind, questioned the speed with which the Democrats are now working to pass the bill, maintaining among other things that a complete fiscal study of the matter has yet to be published.

“If Democrats are so confident in their tolls plan, why do they continue to withhold the numbers from the public? Even their supporters can’t get information,” Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano said. The Republican leader cited a published report quoting Connecticut Construction Industries Association President Don Shubert, who has expressed support for tolls in the past, wondering about whether the pro-tolls contingent’s numbers really add up.

“We may have a bill,” Fasano said, “but we have no details on what the numbers are, what projects will be funded and how any of the projections were calculated. Even toll supporters recognize that information is not being made available, which doesn’t give the public a full picture of what this plan actually does.

“The lack of transparency here is alarming,” he said. “The whole process has been about avoiding sunlight and rushing the bill through before people actually know what it does or doesn’t do.”

Democrats have solid majorities of 22-14 in the Senate and 91-60 in the House.

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