I would like to give you an update about an important discussion taking place this week in Hartford. Tomorrow, January 31, the Transportation Committee will be holding a public hearing on a bill, newly drafted by majority legislators, that includes a provision for tolls on trucks. The bill, now labeled Working Draft LCO #373, is a linchpin of Governor Lamont’s transportation plan.
The hearing will offer legislators and members of the public a chance to learn more about the proposed legislation before a vote is held in the General Assembly. The regular legislative session opens on Wednesday, February 5, and we have been told that a vote may be taken as early as next week.
The Draft Legislation
If you are a confirmed supporter or opponent of tolls, this bill may not change your mind. But if you are undecided, or seeking a compromise, or a proponent of tolling trucks only, or if you simply tend to be more concerned about the intricacies of bill language than about broad concepts, you might find it very helpful to look closely at this bill.
The legislation, which aims to raise money for transportation infrastructure, would impose tolls on large trucks, using gantries installed at 12 bridge locations around the state.
Here are a few key points about the bill.
While tolls would be imposed initially just on large trucks, the language specifies several conditions under which the legislature could vote, with a 3/5 majority, to expand tolls to more types of vehicles during the next 10 years. After July 1, 2030, the conditions would no longer be necessary, and the legislature would have free rein for expansion.
The bill would establish a Transportation Policy Council, comprised primarily of non-elected appointees, which would have final approval on toll rate increases. The General Assembly would have no control over this matter, and no accountability for rate decisions.
There is no information in the bill about how the money raised through tolls would be spent. No bonding bill has yet been made available. Nor is there any information on estimated revenues from tolls, cost of installing the necessary infrastructure, or ongoing administrative costs for the toll system. There is also no information about whether planned spending and revenues would allow the Special Transportation Fund to remain in balance.
This legislation does provoke a disturbing question. If the objective is to obtain revenues from large trucks and only large trucks, why is it necessary to construct and administer over the long term an actual tolling system? Large commercial trucks already pay a fuel tax to the state, so wouldn’t it be easier and certainly less expensive just to raise that tax? While I am not advocating for that initiative, it seems unnecessarily cumbersome to install new infrastructure and create a new bureaucracy, when more revenue could be collected from large trucks without spending a dime.
It’s not easy to exclude the possibility that the tolling infrastructure is meant to be used for purposes beyond those described in the bill.
Expressing Your Views on the Bill
If you feel strongly about this legislation, or about the issue of tolls, one way or another, you may testify in person before the Transportation Committee, or you may submit testimony online. I provided the instructions below.
How to Submit Testimony Online
Send a brief email to TRAtestimony@cga.ct.gov. You need not send it before the start of the Friday hearing, but it would be best to ensure it arrives before Monday morning, in case a vote is scheduled for that day.
Reference Draft Bill LCO #373 in the subject line.
Include your name and town.
Feel free to attend the hearing and listen to what others have to say. Or watch it live on www.ct-n.com.
How to Testify in Person
Come to Hearing Room 1E in the Legislative Office Building (LOB) tomorrow, Friday, January 31, 2020.
Signups will be conducted via a lottery system and numbers will be drawn between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in Room 2300 of the LOB to determine the speaking order.
The hearing starts at 1:00 p.m. The first hour is reserved for public officials. Speakers will be limited to three minutes of testimony.
Please submit 55 copies of written testimony to the Transportation Committee staff (same time and location mentioned above).
Tips and FAQs about testifying are available on the General Assembly’s website here.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss this legislation, transportation, or any other issue further. I am always happy to hear from you.
Office: (860) 240-8700 or (800) 842-1423