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Gov. working on “compromise” toll bill as Republicans push Prioritize Progress plan

HARTFORD — There is new information from the Governor’s office about why a toll bill hasn’t come up for a vote yet.  Meanwhile, the Republican alternative to tolls got a public hearing Friday at the state Capitol.

There’s growing sentiment in the Capitol that Democrats don’t have the votes to get the Governor’s toll bill passed as written. They’re running into resistance from not only Republicans, but some moderate Democrats, especially those in Fairfield County.

“He has seen the pushback by people. This is called adaptation and survival, which means he never had a plan, he still doesn’t have a plan,” claimed Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano.

The Governor’s office confirmed  they are taking the 3 toll bills and creating 1 bill. “Gov. Lamont is working with legislative leaders, as well as the chairmen of the Transportation Committee, to craft a compromise bill that ensures we fundamentally transform our transportation system...” said a spokesperson for Gov. Lamont.

Senator Fasano told FOX61 that Republicans haven’t been invited through the Governor’s self proclaimed "open door" to sit down at his big table. “I've reached out to his Chief of Staff, I’ve reached out to his branch and said 'let’s talk about a lot of proposals - your door is open.'  Zero.”

The Republican alternative to tolls got a public hearing Friday. Dubbed “Prioritize Progress” it would borrow within the existing bonding cap  and establish a Transportation Strategy Advisory Board. They’d hold a public hearing, gather state data, and create a list of the most important transportation and infrastructure projects based on a number of factors.

Republican Rep. Laura Devlin, who sits on the Transportation Committee said, “What Prioritize Progress says is if transportation is really the number one thing in our state, then let’s stop a lot of the nonsense projects and gimme projects. Let’s prioritize along with all the other important thing that we as a state need to support like school construction and clean water.”

Democrats call the plan more debt and more of the same.

Sen. Matt Lesser, a Democrat from the 9th District said, “What they’ve shown so far is just put it on the credit card and don’t worry about it, it will all take care of itself. Any family that budgets that way is out of their mind.”

Rep. Susan Johnson, a Democrat from Windham said, “If we do borrow the money or if we issue bonds for that, we pay interest on that and that will cost us a fortune. So let’s get a little subsidy from the surrounding states.”

The public hearing included testimony from people in favor of tolls, like Gail Berritt of Westport. “I don’t want to have to hold my breath every time I go over a bridge,” she said. And those against them.

“Years and years of money has gone into funds that have not been used for what it was intended for. And with mill rate increases and all the other proposed taxes, it’s just more money that we don’t have,” said Donna Cody of Woodbury.

One of the changes the Governor may make to the toll proposal is a mechanism in place to prevent the toll rate from being raised at will.

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