The Connecticut State Senate chamber in Hartford.

Next week’s vote on truck tolls was cancelled abruptly Thursday night — then rescheduled Friday for some time the week of Feb. 10. Not only was that whiplash-inducing, but for some it renewed questions about how firm support for the plan really is.

With all Republican lawmakers vowing opposition, the CT Mirror tried to take the temperature of seven Senate Democrats whose votes have been called into question at various points.

With a 22-14 majority, the Democratic caucus can spare four votes and still win passage with the help of a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. With a 91-60 majority in the House, Democrats could withstand the loss of 15 members and still pass the bill, 76-75.

Of the seven questionable votes in the Senate, we counted two in opposition and two leaning against. Another was a solid yes. One who has been considered a likely supporter declined comment. A seventh was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

Sen. Alex Bergstein – Opposes current ‘watered-down’ bill

Bergstein Campaign

The first legislator to call for  tolls in 2019, Bergstein said Friday she opposes the current bill because it is not comprehensive. Bergstein, a Greenwich resident serving her first term in office, called the measure “watered-down” because it only tolls large trucks. She also objects to a provision that attempts to block future legislatures from adding tolls on cars.

Sen. Norm Needleman – ‘Leaning towards no’

Needleman, who represents Essex, said he hasn’t firmly decided, but raised several concerns.

“I honestly haven’t made up my mind. I am leaning towards no because I am not enthusiastic about the process. I think that this one-day-before-session [vote] is not the best optics. On the other hand we’ve got to figure out what to do with transportation. I am not a huge fan of borrowing” to pay for transportation repairs and upgrades, he said.

Sen. Julie Kushner – No

The freshman senator from Danbury said Friday she remains opposed to tolls, just as she was during the 2018 election.

“My position has not changed,” she said.

Sen. Joan Hartley – ‘Serious concerns’

Sen. Joan Hartley

Hartley, a moderate Democrat who represents Waterbury and the surrounding towns, said she is not happy that three of the 12 proposed tolling locations would be located in Waterbury, just outside the city.

“I would say that’s a little disproportionate,” she said. “The truth is if we want to have this conversation that is about me — and Waterbury, my district, my constituents — we have to start from a place that is equitable. That is not equitable. By the way, this is a very small state. Take a look. Really?”

She added “There are serious concerns” because the revenue generated by tolls has gone down with the reduction of tolling gantries, and she has not seen what projects the reduced revenue would fund.

Sen. Mae Flexer – Declined to comment

Flexer did not not say how she would vote on the bill.

Sen. James Maroney – Yes

Asked how he would vote, the Milford Democrat said he is a yes for truck tolls, a position he took during his campaign.

“We’ve been paying for these roads all ourselves. And I’ve also been paying for New York’s roads, Massachusetts’ roads and New Jersey’s roads, and so it’s time to stop the people getting a free ride through our state,” he said.

Sen. Christine Cohen – Unknown

Cohen, of Guilford, could not be reached Friday. She is currently out of the country traveling in Israel.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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7 Comments

  1. Despite what Lamont says the current bill contains language that will allow tolls on cars. It is as clear as day. Also bond covenants can easily be rewritten.
    This situation is the same as his failed attempt to impose a horribly regressive grocery tax. Bill language in that instance actually approved the tax but Republican opposition stopped the tax before it was imposed. That bill language however still exists.
    If Lamont wants truck tolling, at minimum the bill needs to be rewritten. The courts still need to decide the legality of truck only tolling.
    The Lamont administration should drop the whole issue at this point.

    1. Expanding the vehicles tolled really wouldn’t adversely affect the bond holders – it would just guarantee the more revenue flows in.

  2. Starting with Alex Bergstein, one can only hope that all those who vote for tolls in any way,shape or form no longer hold office. She was the biggest mistake to get sent to Hartford (replacing a hard working and competent Frantz) in recent history.

    1. I have been lobbying her for awhile. Call her. She will talk to you. Tell her why you think think is a bad idea.

  3. Senator Hartley inadvertently shows the real intent of “truck” only toll plan. If the tolls (tax) where truly going to be truck only they would have minimal financial impact on her constituents living near the gantries as they would not be tolled (taxed). The class 8 trucks are mostly owned and operated by out of state companies and individuals. Now of course Senator Hartley knows having 25% of the gantries in your district when tolls are expanded to all vehicles her constituents will bear a disproportionate share of taxes (tolls) collected. As a Democrat insider she knows the real intent of “truck” only tolls and just told us.

  4. Well here they are if Lamont gets his tolls these are the 1st Democrats that need to go. If any of these individuals are reading this know that if you vote for tolls you will lose at the polls

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