NEW BRITAIN - Options to increase state revenue, including reintroducing highway tolls and legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana were discussed at the League of Women Voters’ Legislative Brunch Saturday.
The brunch was held in the Community Room of the New Britain Public Library.
State Rep. Rick Lopes, D-New Britain, said tolls on the state’s highways would bolster the state’s transportation fund.
“We could institute tolls like our neighboring states,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer. It needs to be done. There’s no alternative.”
Lopes referenced Rhode Island’s toll at the Newport Bridge that increases the state’s revenue more than $100 million a year. It costs $4 to cross the bridge, except for Rhode Island residents who have E-ZPass and pay 80 cents, he said.
“There’s no reason why we couldn’t do a similar thing here,” he said.
State Rep. William Petit, R-Plainville, said many feel there hasn’t been an efficient cost analysis on the impact of tolls.
“There are concerns about the cost side of it,” Petit said.
The state could face changes in federal reimbursements as a result agreements that it signed when it eliminate tolls in the 1980s, he explained.
State Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, said she is in favor of tolls.
“I’ve looked at the figures,” she said. “When you think of the commerce that happens on our highways, the transportation of goods and services, I think it’s a no-brainer.”
State Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, said that without tolls, the state will “never, ever have the money to do what we’re doing.”
The legislators also discussed legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana.
“I am in favor of recreational marijuana and in favor of taxing it,” Tercyak said. Legalizing recreational marijuana would make it safer through regulation, he added.
Gerratana said recreational marijuana taxation would benefit the state, if the way the state currently handles medical marijuana use is any indication.
“I think Connecticut is poised to have recreational marijuana and I believe that is the way we should go, because of the infrastructure that we have,” Gerratana said.
“I think because of the approach that Connecticut took (with medical marijuana) that we could do this, and the income benefits I think would be very appropriate,” she added.
Petit said he is “on the fence” on legalizing recreational marijuana. He said the increase in tax revenue would benefit the state, but the effects on people who use it before the age of 25, or who have mental disorders, are a concern.
Lopes added that he would support legalizing recreational marijuana at this point.
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at 860-973-5088 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.