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Lamont Thanks General Assembly, But The Work Is Not Done

Lamont Thanks General Assembly, But The Work Is Not Done

CT News Junkie, June 6, 2019

By Christine Stuart

Gov. Ned Lamont challenged the Democrat-controlled legislature to give him a budget early. They gave him the 567-page bill one day before the end of session, but lawmakers failed to deliver on electronic highway tolls before the session ended at midnight.

As he started a five-minute speech, Lamont joked that he was going to share his 10-point transportation plan, but, “Annie suggested that might not be such a good idea,” the governor said referring to the first lady.

In an unscripted address, Lamont thanked the legislature for approving some of the smaller items on the agenda, such as a 5G information network, wind power, ghost-gun regulations, and minority teacher recruitment. He also thanked them for sending him a balanced budget on time.

He reminded them that doing so will help local elected officials finalize their own budgets and not raise property taxes.

“We held the line on spending,” Lamont said.

He also touted the $2 billion in the Rainy Day Fund in the event of another economic downturn.

The legislature delivered on Lamont’s promise to pass an increase in the minimum wage and Paid Family and Medical Leave. Like tolls, sports betting and recreational marijuana didn’t make it over the finish line, but the General Assembly is headed into a special session.

However, the call to special session says the General Assembly will return “solely for the purposes of considering and enacting bills concerning (1) state bond authorizations and their underlying programs and projects, and (2) school construction.”

It does not include electronic highway tolls.

The legislature is leaving it up to Lamont to call them into a special session for tolls if he wants to address that issue.

“We have a little bit of unfinished business,” Lamont said early Thursday. “You know, Republicans and Democrats alike know how important fixing our transportation system is and and speeding up our transportation system. We have a dispute about how we’re gonna pay for it, but we’re gonna do that together and we’re going to do that in a special session.

Shortly after taking office Lamont moved from campaigning on trucks-only tolls to tolls for all vehicles. He expressed frustration to legislative leaders when they told him they would be unable to pass the bill before the end of the regular legislative session.

“It will be very difficult to pull off a vote on tolls before we adjourn,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said earlier this week.

Polls and tolls back to top

A recent poll conducted by Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy and the Hartford Courant shows that 59% of Connecticut residents oppose tolling on the state’s highways.

In addition, the poll indicates that 51.3% of those who support tolls largely do so with the provision that money collected would go into a transportation “lockbox” account to be used only for road and bridge improvements and infrastructure repairs. Voters approved the lockbox last year at the polls.

Lamont also will call the legislature back into special session to address the settlement with the Connecticut Hospital Association over the provider tax. Boards of the state’s hospitals have to approve the settlement, as will the court, before the legislature can review and officially adopt it. A vote on that issue isn’t expected until September.