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Connecticut Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont Reverses Campaign Vow: Tolls for All

A turnpike worker collects a toll at a toll booth off the Ohio Turnpike Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2005 in North Ridgeville, Ohio. Ohio turnpike workers are negotiating a contract following a weeklong strike by Pennsylvania turnpike workers that failed to disrupt toll collections. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
DR. SUSAN BERRY

Newly installed Connecticut Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont is already reneging on his campaign pledge to place tolls only on trucks on the state’s roads.

In a budget speech Wednesday that left voters reeling, Lamont, a telecommunications entrepreneur who campaigned as a businessman who knew how to reverse the state’s financial crisis, mapped out his plans to bring Connecticut back from the brink of near-bankruptcy – but none of them involved cutting spending.

In fact, the Democrat proposed increased spending as he also pushed for at least 53 electronic overhead toll gantries across what is the third smallest state in the United States – for all cars and trucks. In addition, Lamont called for expanded sales taxes on dozens of new items and services as well as new taxes on sugary drinks, a surcharge on plastic bags, and a $15 minimum wage.

“He took one of his most fundamental campaign promises – that he wasn’t going to put up tolls on cars – and he lied to the taxpayers and he lied to the voters,” said former Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski as he appeared on WTIC NewsTalk 1080, the Todd Feinburg Show. “And then when he changed his mind – rather than coming forward and talking to people – he dumped it on a Saturday morning editorial on a three-day weekend.”

Connecticut has projected budget deficits of $1.5 billion and $2.2 billion in the next two years, the Hartford Courant reported, adding the governor’s budget “is built largely around new revenue and limited growth. He called for spending increases of 1.7 percent in the first year and 3.4 percent in the second year.”

In 2016, a study from George Mason University’s Mercatus Center found Connecticut ranked as the state in the worst fiscal condition, second only to Puerto Rico, and owing largely to its massive debt obligations and unfunded liabilities.

Connecticut, according to Truth in Accounting, is also considered a “sinkhole state,” without enough assets to cover its debt. The state ranked in September as number 49 for fiscal health in the nation, with only New Jersey ranking below it.

“Because Connecticut doesn’t have enough money to pay its bills, it has a $69.8 billion financial hole,” said the citizen’s financial watchdog group. “To fill it, each Connecticut taxpayer would have to send $53,400 to the state.”

A grassroots group called No Tolls CT has organized to stop Lamont’s toll plan.

“Prior to his inauguration, Governor Ned Lamont reiterated that tolls were coming, but he would maintain his campaign stance and toll only tractor trailers,” the group states on its website that provides a petition against the tolls for Connecticut citizens.

The citizens’ group – which points out Connecticut citizens already pay property taxes on their vehicles – says the tolls will:

  • Increase the cost of every item transported into Connecticut
  • Increase the cost of doing business in the state of Connecticut
  • Increase traffic on secondary roads, which will translate into increased wear/tear = higher property taxes and increased pollution
  • Increase the size of government by creating a toll authority

“We believe that the drivers of Connecticut already pay our fair share of taxes for transportation,” No Tolls CT says. “Until we see that the General Assembly is serious about fixing Connecticut’s fiscal crisis and addiction to spending, we say not one penny more.”

House Republican leader Themis Klarides said about Lamont’s budget proposal, “Everything you do, you will pay more doing it.’’

“This is hitting middle America and your average person,’’ she added. “I believe there’s a path forward, but this is not the path. There are a lot of alternatives. There are many parts of this budget that need to be fixed. … Putting [residents] first is not taxing every corner they turn, and that’s what this budget does.’’

“Imposing new taxes on sodas and grocery bags – and burdening employees with a new payroll tax to fund paid family and medical leave – will cause disproportionate harm to working- and middle-class families across Connecticut,” the Yankee Institute for Public Policy also said, according to the Courant. “We all want to see wage growth, but imposing a $15 minimum wage by fiat only result in jobs lost to automation; reduced job growth; and increased business costs in our state, which already trails the rest of the nation in economic growth.”

Stefanowski told Feinburg when Lamont delivered his budget address he “introduced one of the largest tax increases in the history of the state of Connecticut, despite, again, a campaign promising he wasn’t going to raise taxes.”

“When you add up the tolls, and you add up the expansion of the sales tax, this is one of the top three highest tax increases in our entire state,” the former GOP nominee said, pointing out that Lamont is refusing to cut any spending.

Feinburg called it “incredible” that Lamont and the Democrats leading the legislature have avoided any discussion whatsoever of scaling back spending. The radio host referred to it as “the big elephant that is always filling that room.”

In his budget speech, Lamont attempted to shield himself from critics who urged him to cut spending.

“I can’t just say to patients on the road to recovery at the Department of Mental Health or to kids in crisis at DCF [Department of Children and Families] that I can’t pay the bills,” he said. “I can’t tell the elderly there’s no room at the inn. I can’t simply shut down an underperforming department.”

After listening to that clip from Lamont’s speech, Stefanowski responded, “Well, that’s what the Democrats are very good at – tugging at your heartstrings.”

“What he doesn’t talk about, for example, is the Board of Regents has an $800 million budget – which is an administrative body that sits above all the community colleges,” he explained. “You could get rid of that tomorrow and get rid of $800 million, but the Democrats are very good at ignoring the facts and pulling on your heartstrings.”

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