The governor presented details of his trucks-only tolls plan to legislative leaders Friday.
Gov. Ned Lamont, flanked by Sen. Martin Looney, left, and Sen. Bob Duff and Rep. Matt Ritter after agreeing in November to pursue a truck-only tolls. The details have proven difficult. mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

The leaders of the House and Senate said Wednesday they expect transportation financing legislation to be finished and made public Tuesday, a milestone that would enable them to schedule a public hearing and finalize a vote count, two of the last tasks necessary before a vote on passage in special session.

In separate interviews, Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said they have largely resolved questions raised by rank-and-file members about Gov. Ned Lamont’s 10-year, $19 billion transportation proposal that would establish tolls on tractor trailers at a dozen highway bridges.

With legislative lawyers working on what could be a final draft, the Lamont administration is pushing for a public hearing next week, something that Aresimowicz said was “ambitious, but possible.”

Aresimowicz said he wants a hearing consistent with existing legislative rules, which call for a five-day notice period. Due to the availability of lawmakers, Looney said no vote was likely on the transportation bill or a related bond package before the week of Jan. 27th. The regular session opens on Feb. 5. 

A tolls opponent failed to win a special session for a House seat Tuesday, and an issues poll commissioned by environmental and labor groups in advance of the 2020 legislative session recently found a majority of Connecticut voters support “instituting tolls on eighteen-wheeler trucks on twelve Connecticut bridges.” 

The poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a global firm that came to national prominence working for Bill Clinton in 1992 and works for interest groups and Democratic candidates, found 51% of voters in favor and 42% opposed to the administration’s plan, but the numbers improved to 64% in favor and 35% opposed when nudged with more information about the scope of the administration’s plan.

The administration hopes the election results and poll reassures Democratic lawmakers, who know that Republicans hope to use tolls as a wedge issue in 2020.

“If Gov. Lamont is confident in his plan, why won’t he share it with the public, or at the very least the lawmakers who he is asking to vote on it?”

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano

“We’ve reached a point with House and Senate Democrats where we all agree on what the direction needs to be, as to how we’re going to address our transportation crisis,” said Max Reiss, the governor’s communications director. “It’s important for the public to understand precisely what it is, not only how to get to the solution, but what the end result will be.”

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the draft is overdue.

“If Gov. Lamont is confident in his plan, why won’t he share it with the public, or at the very least the lawmakers who he is asking to vote on it? What doesn’t he want us to know? I can only assume something is in the bill, or not in the bill, that he wants to keep away from the public,” Fasano said. 

Senate GOP leader Len Fasano outlines the Republican alternative to tolls in November. Fasano and the rest of the GOP minority have remained staunchly opposed to any transportation plan that includes tolls. mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

Democrats said the public will see the bill no later than Tuesday, the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The bill will make clear that passenger-car tolls are not authorized, and Aresimowicz said there was a possibility that car tolls could be placed before the lawmakers so they could go on record voting in opposition, if that was their position.

Aresimowicz and Looney said one of the concerns raised by urban lawmakers was that the state’s urban bus routes be updated to reflect the needs to city residents who do not own cars to commute to suburban jobs. They want assurances that some members of a new transportation oversight board will be mass transit advocates.

The initial rates would be set in legislation, with future increases up to the oversight board, whose members would be appointed by the  governor and legislative leaders. The potential increases, legislators said, most likely would be pegged to inflation.

Adam Wood, a spokesman for the environmental and labor groups that commissioned the poll, declined to identify the members of the coalition. But he provided a copy of a three-page memo analyzing the results of two tolls questions.

The results varied by congressional district, with the least support in the 5th District, where 47% were in favor and 48% opposed. The other four districts had clear majorities in support. The broader push language produced stronger majorities across the board.

“The language tested below increases support for tolls on trucks among voters in every demographic group and across all parts of the state, including among voters in the 5th Congressional District who were initially divided,” said an unsigned memo accompanying the poll by GQR, as the polling firm is also known. “Among independent voters, 62 percent support the proposal while 36 percent remain opposed.”

This is the description that moved the needle:

“As you may know, there is a new comprehensive transportation plan designed to reduce commuter drive times, fix crumbling roads and bridges, and reduce emissions that cause climate change. The goal is to create a sustainably funded long-term plan to fix Connecticut’s infrastructure. As part of this plan, Connecticut would institute tolls on eighteen-wheeler trucks on twelve of Connecticut’s bridges. The revenue from the tolls on trucks would be put in a dedicated fund for improvements to transportation and matched with seven hundred and fifty million dollars from the federal government. It will also make Connecticut eligible for low-interest federal loans.”

The poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is based on live telephone interviews with 500 likely voters from January 6 to 9. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, with higher margins for smaller subgroups.




CT Toll Memo Draft (PDF)

CT Toll Memo Draft (Text)

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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14 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, the general public who take these polls are not given the proper information and even the question is asked to solicit a positive response.
    So this is a user fee? Drivers pay two gas taxes, vehicle sales tax (stolen), and registration fees. The money goes to public transportation projects and subsidies, road maintenance, debt service, and worker pensions. Where is the user fee for public transportation? Every train ticket to New York is subsidized $80. Every train ticket on our “successful” Springfield line is subsidized $59. It seems to me that I’m paying a “user fee” for the roads I’m using and a “user fee” for that rich guy on the train to Manhattan.
    Why does it cost so much more for construction projects here than anywhere else? They don’t do a better job.
    The bottom line is we are the second highest taxed state in the country. Billions wasted and billions owed and we have nothing but closing businesses and out-migration to show for it. The ever expansion of government programs and their insatiable appetite to raise taxes has killed this state. It’s about time to look elsewhere.

    1. Hi Kevin, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

    2. Don’t forget license fees (including State Park charges) and the useless Emissions Test fee. You know, the test that involves a ‘technician’ typing in some vehicle data and then charging $20 five minutes later.

    3. You forgot the bus subsidies and the CT Fastrack busway.

      Are our legislators really so clueless to think we will trust them on truck-only tolls, regardless what language they put in the bill or some phony, see-we-really-mean-no-car-tolls vote? (No need to answer that.)

  2. For whom the tolls toll?
    As usual,Hartford will cram his down the throats of state residents.
    The money will vanish. The increases will be continuous and the only winners will be
    the new layer of bloated quasi-government workers.
    Enjoy.

  3. The poll cited above contacted only half the people Sacred Heart quarterly polls do. Sacred Heart’s questions have been consistently objective and unbiased without “push” phrasing. Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac polls are not commissioned by “environmental and labor groups” with pro-tolls objectives. Public opinion polls from Sacred Heart & Quinnipiac during the past 10 years show Ct citizens oppose tolls. Those are facts.

    Yes, “A tolls opponent failed to win a special session for a House seat Tuesday.” To include the WHOLE truth, a tolls opponent also WON on Tuesday.

    Let’s have the entire truth told. Two special elections = one tolls opponent won, one lost. A new survey that included “push” questioning was commissioned by tolls supporting groups and contradicts TEN YEARS of objective polling commissioned by two unbiased universities.

    1. Oh, come now. If they told the whole truth (and I agree with you about the language in the poll), they wouldn’t get the result they want.

    2. I spent my entire career assessing and deconstructing falsehoods and misinformation, designed to drive a specific agenda. As it relates to any polling in support of the act of tolling. The value and accuracy of any poll, can only be determined if specific details related to location, age, race, gender and political persuasion of the sample population is known. Without that knowledge, the poll is nothing more than a worthless document.

  4. Regarding ANY poll concerning tolls – Please provide the question(s) asked of the recipients of the calls.
    I’d bet the questions are phrased in such a way as to elicit the desired conclusion.

  5. Say hello to the next new revenue stream to be used to pay for massively underfunded state union worker benefits. Anyone who thinks that these tolls will be limited to trucks hasn’t been paying attention to the ongoing pillage of our transportation fund by Democrats in Hartford. Lock boxes don’t work and promises continue to be broken. Believe these fools at your peril.

    It looks like the only voting that counts in Connecticut anymore is the voting people are doing with their feet. When the next financial downturn happens (and it will most surely happen), the incompetence and malfeasance by our “leaders” will be exposed for all to see. Enjoy.

  6. The poll’s 64% in favor figure is based on this biased and mis-leading statement read to the people polled: “The revenue from the tolls on trucks would be put in a dedicated fund for improvements to transportation…” Translation = “The revenue from the tolls on trucks that transport goods to and within Connecticut would be put in a dedicated fund for improvements to trains, buses, ports, roads and bridges.” If it follows the pattern of how STF money is used more will go to trains and buses than to roads and bridges.

  7. They should put language in the bill that it will take a vote of 2/3 of the house and senate to approve tolling private passenger autos, Let’s see who will who agree to that.

  8. Can you imagine what the response to a poll like this would be if the question were to ask:

    Would you support tolls if you knew that the some or all current funds that are intended to go towards transportation would be diverted to other uses?
    Would you support tolls if you knew that RI’s court case were to result in a decision that forced the tolling of all vehicles or none?

    As with any poll, how the question is framed or explained can lead to the predetermined and desired result.

    The questions noted in the article, as asked and explained, put unrealistic constraints on how the revenue will be used, and does not address the potential impact on current revenues that are supposed to be used for transportation.

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