HARTFORD – State Representative Tom O’Dea (R-New Canaan, Wilton), Deputy Republican Leader-at-Large and member of the General Assembly’s joint Transportation Committee, voted against four bills that would set Connecticut on a path toward electronic tolls – something that would have an immediate and direct impact on residents in Fairfield County. The votes took place during a Transportation Committee meeting on March 22nd, 2018.
“Between the proposals for increases to the gas tax, bus and rail fares, and now the possibility of tolls throughout the state, Connecticut residents are facing the prospect of a major spike in their commuting costs,” Rep. O’Dea said. “The argument that we need to increase funding to the Special Transportation Fund (STF), while true, is due to the mismanagement of said fund. Without a reliable lockbox assuring all current funds directed into the STF will continue to be so directed and all STF funds, once there, will be used for transportation purposes, I am afraid toll revenue will simply allow politicians to redirect monies currently put into the STF fund.”
The four bills were 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, and HB 5391, An Act Concerning Transportation Infrastructure. These bills would be the first step towards the installation of tolls on Connecticut highways, though the proposals offered limited detail on construction costs and expected revenue.
“My concern with these bills is that we have a spending problem in the State of Connecticut,” Rep. O’Dea added. “I don’t want us using toll revenue as an excuse to increase the budget. If the legislature came to an agreement to bring the gas tax down significantly and the toll revenue would not lead to an increase in our overall budget, an argument could be made for tolls, but until then, I cannot support these proposals. Additionally, I am uncomfortable with the lack of detail in the tolling proposals and the fact that the current bill language does not give the legislature the ability to vote on them again. Are the toll gantries only on bridges and tunnels so as to limit congestion on local roadways? If not, how do we limit traffic exiting and entering roadways to avoid the tolls? Hartford needs to prove that it can responsibly manage current revenue before asking taxpayers for a penny more.”
S.B. 389, H.B. 5046, H.B. 5391, and H.B. 5393 each received a joint favorable report from the committee and will make their way to the floor. The bills were passed on party-line votes with all Republicans in opposition.
State Representative Tom O’Dea represents the 125th Connecticut House district, which includes parts of New Canaan and Wilton. He is the Deputy Republican Leader-at-Large, and serves on the Judiciary, Legislative Management, and Transportation Committees.
Please click on the video above to watch Rep. O’Dea’s remarks on the tolls bills.