Some Senate Democrats still publicly hedge on tolls
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
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’
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.
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