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CT Income Tax Cut Could Be Tied Into Tolls Deal, Widening I-95

The state Capitol in Hartford
The state Capitol in Hartford Photo Credit:

Gov. Ned Lamont is considering a modest reduction in state income tax if electronic highway tolls are approved.

The proposed compromise is part of a 52-page document on transportation funding released on Wednesday, June 19 as Lamont met with legislative leaders on tolls, which were removed from Connecticut highways in 1983.

Lamont suggested specific projects to reduce congestion on Interstate 95 in Fairfield County. With an influx of $700 million in tolls, the state could afford to widen parts of I-95 south of New Haven, he said.

But the governor said the state needs $2 billion-a-year to bring its aging highways, bridges and rail lines up-to-date. Connecticut could lose federal transit grants if investments don't happen by 2030, he said..

Lamont’s presentation included improvement projects on I-95 in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Norwalk, Bridgeport and Milford. An additional northbound lane would be added on six miles of I-95 between exits 19 and 28.

Lamont’s latest plan would give a 20 percent toll credit to people who make less than $32,000-a-year. His plan also would lower bus fares from $1.75 to $1, give 30 percent discounts to in-state residents and 20 percent discounts to frequent commuters.

During last year's gubernatorial campaign, Lamont suggested reducing a state budget deficit by restoring tolls to state highways. Lamont, a Democrat from Greenwich, originally floated the idea of tolling only out-of-state truck drivers. About 40 percent of the projected toll revenue would come from out-of-state drivers.

As part of the two-year budget, Lamont expanded his toll proposal to include cars. But state lawmakers rejected any decision on tolls, saving it for a possible special session later this year.

The compromise suggests that individuals making $25,000- to $100,000-a-year would save up to $90 annually on their income taxes if the lowest state tax rate drops to 2 percent, down from the current 3 percent.

For couples, the savings would be up to $180 annually for those with adjusted gross incomes between $35,000 and $145,000 annually. The tax cut would cost the state about $100 million-a-year in lost taxes, according to projections.

Last month, a draft bill was released calling for up to 50 electronic toll readers on I-95, I-91, I-84 and Route 15 -- which includes the Wilbur Cross and Merritt parkways.

Lamont needs support from Republicans, who remain skeptical. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides of Derby and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven said no progress was made trying to convince them to restore tolls.

“No, we don’t support tolls, period,” Fasano told news reporters at the state Capitol. "He needs our help to get tolls over the finish line.”

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