HARTFORD - After almost an hour of discussion, the State Bond Commission approved $10 million to study the feasibility of electronic tolls on state highways.
The 10-person commission voted 6-3 Wednesday, with state Treasurer Denise Nappier abstaining, to fund the study.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo voted against the study, joined by state Rep. Chris Davis, R-East Windsor, and state Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich.
“The item on today’s agenda is not a vote for tolls. Let me say that again: The item on today’s agenda will not enact tolls in Connecticut. That can only be done through an act of the legislature,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in prepared remarks. “What it will do is study our options. It will give the legislature more information of what tolls would look like, what kind of revenue they would raise, and what the impact would be on our roads and our environment.”
The state could use revenue from electronic tolling to help fund infrastructure projects. Malloy said the state’s Special Transportation Fund needs another revenue source and will not have enough money to pay for all road and highway projects.
Davis said Malloy could have proposed this move at any time in the last seven years instead of doing so months before leaving office.
“What we have heard time and time again from people in Connecticut that have reached out to all of us, and we’ve all received a tremendous amount of correspondence on this: They don’t see a need or desire to have a $10 million study,” Davis said before the vote. “We’ve had a few studies done on tolling already. The state’s spent millions of dollars on tolling already.”
Malloy suggested that some people in the state are subscribing to a new version of “know-nothing philosophy.”
“They’re choosing to reject new information, to decide proactively to know less, to limit the scope of their options before even fully understanding what those options truly are,” Malloy said. “Let’s not be know-nothings. Let’s not fall back on those bad practices of doing less, of knowing less. Let’s not sputter and stall while other states speed ahead.”
Before the vote, Davis and Frantz tried unsuccessfully to remove the study from the transportation package.
The governor acknowledged that it could take nine months to find a firm to perform the study.
Ultimately, tolls will be an issue for the next governor and General Assembly after November’s election, but candidates aren’t flocking to support the toll study. During Tuesday’s Republican gubernatorial debate at Sacred Heart University, all five hopefuls spoke against it.
During Wednesday’s bond meeting, Democratic Party-endorsed candidate Ned Lamont issued a statement opposing the study, calling it “wasteful.” Lamont said he would use existing data to determine how much revenue the state can generate by tolling out-of-state trucks, a strategy recently implemented in neighboring Rhode Island.
Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, R-North Haven, called the study as a waste of taxpayer money and urged support of Prioritize Progress, a plan drafted by state Republicans that provides an alternate means of funding the state’s Special Transportation Fund.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at email@example.com.