HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A large crowd of anti-toll activists and pro-tolls advocates came to the Capitol on Friday as a public hearing on the governor’s “truck tolls” plan is moving forward.
While the hearing was going on at the Legislative Office Building, the two top Democrats in the House and Senate were meeting with the governor at the Capitol. They emerged to announce that the assembly will take up the plan the week of Feb. 10.
At the public hearing, Transportation Committee co-chair Sen. Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) opened things up by saying, “Quite simply this is a bill about tolling trucks at twelve locations, it’s about as simple as that.”
Democrats and Republicans all agree that the state’s transportation infrastructure must be rebuilt. Ranking Republican member of the committee, Rep. Laura Devlin (R-Fairfield) saying, “The only thing we’ve had disagreement about is creating new revenue streams in order to fund that, versus the overburdened of taxes that are already used for this purpose.”
The Governor’s budget director and D.O.T. commissioner made their case for the Governor’s plan and said the $170 million the truck tolls will bring in will free up enough state cash flow to improve rail service to New York and on the Hartford line plus expand bus service in New Haven, including a new fleet of electric buses.
The governor’s budget director Melissa McCaw, saying, “The bill includes inability to increase toll rates in a bond covenant. We cannot default on our bond covenant, so that is the protection to the public.”
And the D.O.T. commissioner, Joe Giulietti, cleared up some confusion saying that only large trucks with trailers will be tolled and no other vehicles adding, “It does not affect the dump trucks, it doesn’t affect fire trucks. This is clearly for those trucks that are traveling through our state that are doing the most damage to our bridges and our highways.”
Just prior to Friday’s hearing; House and Senate Republicans all appeared together to denounce the plan and claim that the reason the Democrats pulled the plug on the special session is because they don’t have the votes.
Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) saying, “It’s not something the people want and there’s certain people trying to jam it down their throats.”
The House Minority Leader, Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby) adding, “People do not trust state government, they have not kept their word day after day, time after time.” That was followed by cheers and applause from anti tolls activists in the room.