Lockbox Before Tolls, Says Ben Barnes to State Lawmakers

Feb 25, 2015

The Connecticut State Capitol in a WNPR file photo.
Credit Mamata.mulay / Creative Commons

The legislature's transportation committee heard testimony Wednesday on two issues: highway tolls, and ways to ensure that all money deposited in the special transportation fund will go specifically for transportation improvement projects -- the so-called lockbox.

Benjamin Barnes, the governor's budget secretary, told lawmakers that highway tolls alone won't fix all of Connecticut's transportation problems.

"I think the levels of tolling that would have to be imposed in order to generate that level of revenue would have significant ill effects," said Barnes.

Barnes warned that implementing tolls could eventually discourage people from traveling on the state's highways, and reduce the amount Connecticut receives in federal transportation funding. 

State Representative Tony Guererra, house chair of the transportation committee, said tolls may be the state's only option. "I'm gonna tell you this: I am not going to allow the people of this state to take the burden on their back, when 75 percent are traveling through this state and not paying for it," he said. "That is dead wrong."

Barnes told the committee that the state must first make sure, either through legislation or a constitutional amendment, that the special transportation fund is used strictly for transportation improvement projects before lawmakers figure out how to pay for them.