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Bus and train riders caught in the middle

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The current budget stalemate at the State Capitol may soon affect hundreds of thousands of Connecticut commuters right where it hurts, in the wallet.

Big fare hikes on buses and trains are coming if there’s no “fix” at the Capitol by the end of the legislative session in just six days. The fare hikes would start on July 1.

Democrats and Republicans both say they want to avoid these fare hikes. They both have plans to do it that are similar, but they just can’t get in the same room together to get it done.

On average, more than 100,000 Connecticut residents take the bus every day. This equates to about 40 million bus trips every year. The approaching fare hike would increase the fare 25 cents.

For someone that takes the bus to work every day, it would be an additional $10 a month out of their pocket.

The numbers are similar for the trains with more than 100,000 riders per day. The rail fare hike would be a 10 percent increase, followed by another 10 percent over the next two years.

Plus, there would be some service cutbacks on the feeder lines. The Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin), said on Thursday, “The economic impact to our state, we would not get over. It would be worse than any one large employer leaving the state.”

Related Content: Lembo projects $386.7 million deficit for Connecticut

The Democrats want to divert the sales tax from all new car and truck sales starting in July and put it in the Special Transportation Fund to stop the fare hikes. “That would go into the STF fund and alleviate the pressures from the reductions and the hikes,” said Democratic Co-Chair of the Transportation Committee Sen. Carlo Leone (D-Stamford).

The Republicans want to do something very similar to solve the problem.

“We take the car sales tax that goes into the General Fund and we move 2.5%, about $9 million dollars into the STF to pay for these expenses,” said Republican Senate President Pro tem Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven).

But while bus and train riders wait to see if they’re going to have to shell out more on their daily commute, no one at the Capitol is trying to find the common ground on this. 

Aresimowicz acknowledged on Thursday, “They do not have the votes for their budget in the
House absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt. Just like I don’t have the votes for a budget in the House which means we have to sit at a table and agree.”

Does this sound silly to you? Or maybe you can think of a harsher term for it.

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