HARTFORD (AP) - Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is getting strong political pushback for what will likely be one of his final executive orders - a plan to spend $10 million on a study of electronic highway tolls across Connecticut.
Republican state legislators have balked at the idea, calling it a waste of taxpayer money. GOP gubernatorial candidates are making it a campaign issue. And now the Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union, which is not taking a position on tolling itself, is raising concerns about the privacy of an electronic system.
Malloy is not backing down, saying it makes sense to assess the state’s options for ensuring Connecticut’s roads and bridges are in good repair. In five years, the state’s Special Transportation Fund is not expected to have enough money for such projects.
The State Bond Commission, which Malloy chairs, is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the funding.
A look at where things stand in the continuing debate over tolls:
With less than six months left in his final term, Malloy last week ordered state agencies to assess tolling on Interstates 95, 91, 84, the Wilbur Cross Parkway, the Merritt Parkway and possibly other limited access highways. The General Assembly failed to pass such a study last session. Malloy claimed the information will be “invaluable” to the next administration.
Malloy has argued Connecticut needs a new funding mechanism to pay for transportation considering how the transportation fund will become insolvent as vehicles become more fuel efficient and the state’s gasoline tax subsequently generates less revenue. Some legislative Democrats, including House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, have supported a study. But many Republicans have staunchly opposed one, never mind tolls in general.
At least one top Democrat has said he won’t vote Wednesday to release the $10 million in bonding.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, a state Bond Commission member, said he doesn’t believe the commission should finance the study without a legislative directive. He argued it should be up to the next administration to decide whether to move forward with the idea.