Lavielle calls new tolls bill ‘unacceptable’
After a night of digesting the hundreds of lines in a 32-page draft of the bill that would create trucks-only tolls in Connecticut, a leading Republican opponent said Tuesday that there are ominous questions provoked in the legislation.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle of Wilton said that the bill seems to give the General Assembly control over the possible expansion of tolls, requiring three-fifth votes, until 2030. But after then, it would seem much easier to include cars.
Lavielle, a veteran member of the legislative Transportation Committee, was also critical of the apparent exclusion of the General Assembly from decisions to raise toll prices, which currently range from $6 to $13 on the biggest trucks.
“I find it unacceptable because the legislature has to approve everything else when you collect money,” she said in a phone interview. “Another thing I find that people in the public won’t notice is that until 2030, any expansion of the tolls would have to be approved by three-fifths of the legislature. But after 2030 all bets are off. If that is indeed the case that they should know this.”
A public hearing on the issue has been scheduled in the Capitol complex for Friday afternoon, in advance of a likely special legislative session early next week, right before the 13-week budget-adjustment session is scheduled to begin Feb. 5.
Another issue Lavielle wants to raise Friday is the current road-use taxes paid by trucks that drive through the state.
“The draft lays out tolls-only for great big trucks that pay driving over 12 bridges, only once a day,” she said. “But big trucks already pay a mileage tax, so if what they want is money, why not just raise that tax and don’t get involved in erecting the gantries and operating a toll system? That could raise money without going through the trouble and extra expense. That’s the big, big question. There’s could be another way to get it that’s a lot easier.”
State Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, said that the bill only details the three-fifth requirement until 2030, because legislative leaders don’t want to restrict future General Assemblies beyond 10 years.
On the issue of possibly expanding current road-use taxes for big trucks, Leone suggested that Lavielle draft such legislation and submit it to the committee, suggesting that it would be highly unlikely for toll opponents to propose such measures.
Leone said the bill is an amalgam of ideas on the issue.
“The final draft is a culmination of everyone’s inputs into what they want to see for truck-tolls only,” Leone said Tuesday morning. “I’m sure that there are countless issues for others to rail against. What we crafted is what is in the best intesrt of the state and what we have support for.”
On the upcoming public hearing, Leone said he expects to hear familiar arguments. “We just have to give the public its say,” he said.