HARTFORD —There are now two weeks left in the legislative session. With each passing day, the possibility of a toll bill getting passed in regular session lessens.
On Monday, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said it’s his preference to get a toll bill passed within the next two weeks, but said in the same breath that if it doesn’t happen, he’s not opposed to calling lawmakers into special session to vote on it.
Despite collecting nearly 102,000 signatures, only a couple thousand people showed up at the states Capitol this weekend for a no tolls rally. Rep. Matt Ritter, (D) Majority Leader said, “Do I think people were surprised at the low turnout? Yes.”
There’s still no compromise toll bill to look at. Majority Caucus Chair Roland Lemar was told by the Speaker not to commit to details. “He said don’t commit to anything until we get full agreement from the house, senate, governors office and the federal highway authority.”
Legislative leaders say resident discounts, gantry locations, whether the legislature would have to vote on it twice and making sure they craft the bill in a way that can get federal approval is what’s holding it up.
Democrats proclaimed Monday that Republicans have proposed tolls of their own. Rep. Joe Arosimowicz, (D) Speaker of the House said, “They dropped off a plan in here Friday that entailed some details that could end up rolling on bridges.” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides said they amended their Prioritize Progress plan but vehemently denies any support of tolling. “We once again came up with a modification of that and have it to them. Now their spin is we are supporting tolls on bridge which is unequivocally not true,” said Klarides.
We know a compromise bill would include reduction in the gas tax, but it won’t be anything significant. 1-cent per year over 5 years. “I think the sentiment is great and if we can do it we should, but I don’t know that it’s a game changer,” said Speaker Aresimowicz. Rep. Laura Devlin, (R) Fairfield said, “On the high side that might be a 25-million savings compared to the 650-million they want to pull out of our pockets in year 1.”
But Democrats say 40% of that would come from out out of state drivers with up to 50% discounts for EZ Pass holders, residents and frequent users. Tolls rates would be frozen for 3 years. DOT could raise the rates after that, but...“If they exceed certain perimeters it has to come back for a vote,” said Speaker Aresimowicz.
As for most of the regular business of the house Monday, the Speaker called this a housecleaning day. They are doing a lot of smaller bills that have bipartisan consensus.