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Aresimowicz Backs Tolls

Aresimowicz Backs Tolls

New Haven Independent, March 1, 2019

By CCM staff

Since Gov. Ned Lamont issued his first state budget proposal last week , there has been much talk around the water cooler about proposed new tolls and minimum wage hikes. If you ask state House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, that might be one of the best things about it.

The speaker discussed the proposal Wednesday the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ Brian O’Connor on WNHH FM’s “The Municipal Voice”.

It was a mixed bag of takes, according to Aresimowicz, “depending on where you were with the issues.”

“But the most resounding message that I took from it,” he said, “was his genuine wish that we all sit around the table, and if you have an idea he’d like to hear them.”

This was night and day compared to previous administrations, which were sometimes notorious for budget proposals that were little more than what the speaker called “a hard and fast collection of their policy goals with a dollar amount next to it.”

This budget proposal was not a collection of partisan policy goals, but a collection of ideas to move the state forward that the governor wants discussed, Aresimowicz said. “I don’t know where they go, but I know the conversation will happen.” 

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Brian O’Connor noted the fact that some of those proposals have some municipalities on the losing side of the stick without being brought to the table, such as a proposal to have towns start paying part of the cost of teachers’ state pensions.

“We spend a varying number, somewhere around $5 billion a year, on municipal support,” Aresimowicz said. “If the Teacher Pension spike is allowed to occur in 2024, it has the potential to take money off the table.”

As O’Connor noted, no one wants to see discretionary funding get squeezed. One more conversation that the speaker felt we needed to have as a state is on tolling.

CCM’ President Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary and Council of Small Towns President Rudy Marconi, first selectman of Ridgefield, issued a similar call in an op-ed for the Connecticut Post
“It’s the most important discussion we can have,” the Speaker said.

“We’re 20 and 30 years behind our neighboring states… if we have a vibrant economy, and businesses coming in, our problems start going away and we talk about how we reinvest the money and get ready for additional companies to come in, instead of [figuring out] how we’re going to cut just to survive.”

Speaker Aresimowicz did not mince words when it comes to economic development through infrastructure investment: “Only way we do it in my mind is a large infusion of money, and the only way to do that is tolls.”