Governor Pitches Toll Plan, Tax Cut
The future of highway tolls in the state remains unclear following Gov. Ned Lamont’s meeting with legislative leaders from both parties this week.
The governor is trying to kick start his tolls plan after the legislature failed to act on the issue during the 2019 General Assembly session.
While Lamont closed out the regular session calling for lawmakers to reconvene this summer to act on tolls, the legislature does not appear close to answering his call.
“We did not agree on how to pay for the needed improvements to our transportation system,” Lamont told reporters after the meeting.
“I’m not going to overstate. I would say there was quite a divide between us, and I’m not sure we found a tolled bridge to connect that divide.”
Trust an Issue
Lamont acknowledged that public trust in government—or more precisely, the lack of trust—is a key issue in the tolls debate.
“There’s just a sense that any money spent is money misspent by a government,” he said.
“I’ve tried to convince people this is the best investment we can make to get this state growing again.”
Lamont administration officials told legislative leaders the state’s Special Transportation Fund “is in crisis,” with expenses outpacing revenues by a 5-1 margin.
The fund, which is expected to run deficits by fiscal 2022, has been the subject of numerous legislative raids in recent years, including this year, with the new state budget diverting $171 million from the STF.
Lamont’s pitch to legislators this week largely reflected previous plans to generate an estimated $800 million annually by tolling I-95, I-91, I-84, and Route 15.
Income Tax Cut
He also floated lowering the income tax on the first $10,000 of taxable income from 3% to 2%, a move that would cost the state $100 million annually.
Such a cut would save individuals earning between $25,000 and $100,000 about $90 a year. The maximum savings for couples with adjusted gross incomes between $35,000 and $145,000 would be $180.
“I think it’s a pretty good idea myself,” Lamont said. “I think it tells taxpayers across the state that I understand your taxes have been going up.
“Here’s an opportunity to actually reduce it a little bit. That doesn’t happen in this state very often.”
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) and House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) said the meeting did nothing to sway their opposition to tolls.
“No, we don’t support tolls. Period,” Fasano told reporters.
Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) told reporters he could not comment on the prospect of a special session without meeting with his caucus.
“I do believe it it would be preferable for an issue of this magnitude to be bipartisan,” he said.
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