Wilton legislators vote against toll bills

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Senator Toni Boucher (R-26)
State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Senator Toni Boucher (R-26)

Two of Wilton’s state legislators on March 22 voted in the Transportation Committee against bills that would allow tolls on Connecticut highways. State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) is co-chair of the Transportation Committee and state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) is a member. The proposals they voted against were ultimately passed.

The four bills approved by the committee are:

  • SB 389: An Act Establishing the Connecticut Transportation Authority.

  • HB 5393: An Act Establishing the Connecticut Transportation Finance Authority to Maintain Major State Highways.

  • HB 5046 (governor’s bill): An Act Concerning the Sustainability of Transportation Projects.

  • HB 5391: An Act Concerning Transportation Infrastructure.

Boucher is particularly concerned by House Bill 5391, which she says provides the possibility for a toll plan to be enacted without a vote by the legislature.

“The language in this bill states that a proposal from a Transportation Authority would be deemed approved if not acted upon by the legislature within a short period of time,” she said in a press release. “It also established that a second proposal will be created if the first is voted down by the legislature. If no action is taken on the second try within a small window of time, again it is deemed approved. Not taking action on a plan should not guarantee its approval.”

She said some of the bills before the committee appeared to be an attempt to remove legislators’ fingerprints from a controversial issue.

“When it comes to something this big, something that would have a monumental cost and impact on taxpayers, I believe we should keep the decision making closest to those who are closest to, and answerable to the public,” Boucher said.

“We were elected to be decision-makers and to be held accountable for those decisions,” she said. “As we’ve seen with the state’s bus and rail systems, when decisions are made by bureaucrats, they don’t bat an eye about increasing fare rates.”

Boucher said she also could not vote for any measures that require Connecticut drivers to pay even more to the state without reducing or eliminating costs like the gas tax, car property tax, inheritance tax, and income tax.

Lavielle said none of the bills contain much in the way of detail.

“None of them tells us how much tolls would cost to implement, how many tolls there would be, how much revenue they would bring in, or how much they would cost drivers every day,” she said. “Two of the bills are not even proposals to implement tolls, but proposals requiring the legislature to vote to make itself vote at a future date. And all four bills assign full responsibility for making future decisions on number, location, and pricing of tolls to unelected bodies of political appointees.

"Tolls are not an abstract concept,” she continued. “They are a tool for raising revenue that naturally comes at a cost to all Connecticut residents. I believe we cannot make an informed decision on behalf of Connecticut residents unless we have a clear picture of both the benefits and the costs. I believe that it would have been disrespectful to my constituents to support any proposal that would affect most of them, yet provides no particulars of what the costs or the benefits for them would be."

The House and Senate must still approve the bills before they can become law. Boucher said she would continue efforts to encourage her colleagues to vote against them.