Connecticut lawmakers heard testimony on a new round of bills calling for electronic tolls to be installed on state highways, including one that would create a congestion pricing system.
First Selectman Rudy Marconi says the state can't cut its way out of the deficit. He supports border tolls, but doesn't believe that should be the only place they be located. In particular, Marconi suggested north of Newtown by the Housatonic.
Marconi proposed a number of ways to raise revenue.
He suggested getting rid of the gas tax and just having tolls as a source of revenue. He acknowledged that there are a number of Ridgefield residents who commute to New York City. They don't want to pay a toll, but he says they would rather be charged that way than have a hike in property taxes.
In response to people who say border tolls are unfair, he suggested that the state implement an income tax credit for people employed in a neighboring state.
Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says many people he's talked with distrustful that if a discount was able to be offered that it would remain in place long term. He called tolls a matter of fairness and equality.
Knickerbocker says Bethel is a more diverse community than the other small towns in lower Litchfield County and Fairfield County. He says there are an estimated 2,000 commuters in Bethel, who are not big corporate CEOs. He says tolls would be a disproportionate tax that will hit working people and young families.
Wilton Representative Gail Lavielle said most of the constituents she's heard from don't want tolls. She says they are wary of spending any more and not getting any more.
Wilton Senator Toni Boucher, a committee co-chair, has been an outspoken opponent of tolls. Boucher calls tolls "just another tax on drivers". Among her biggest concerns is that drivers trying to avoid tolls will increase congestion and wear-and-tear on local roads. Boucher is also concerned with the bills because the funds are not guaranteed to be spent on transportation. She also noted that tolls don't guarantee a reduction or elimination of the gas tax.
The Committee was told Friday that declining gas tax revenue will place the Transportation Fund in deficit by 2019-2020.