CONNECTICUT, USA — You can call it Governor Lamont’s second bite at the Apple. After failing to get tolls through the legislature, the governor is now trying a regional approach to improving transportation through a climate change agreement.
It’s called the Transportation Climate Initiative or 'TCI' and it could generate $1 billion in revenue for Connecticut by 2032. But that money has come from somewhere and those opposed say it certainly will be your wallet.
Governor Lamont said, "We are so much more effective when it comes to dealing with the environment and public health when we work not just in a vacuum but on a regional basis."
So, Connecticut wants to join Massachusetts, Rhode Island and D.C. in the Transportation Climate Initiative. It's aimed at reducing carbon emissions and investing in clean energy infrastructure. Opponents say it would result in a gas tax. Carol Platt Liebau, the President of the Yankee Institute said, "It’s the kind of tax where our poorest people will simply pay for it again and again and again."
Katie Dykes, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded, "Folks who are suggesting this is a gas tax is just peddling misinformation here." While it’s true that no direct gas tax would be proposed, the initiative caps pollution levels and charges gas wholesalers extra if more fossil fuel is consumed than what is allowed under the pollution cap. Sen. Henri Martin, a Republican from the 31st District said, "Those wholesalers are going to have to absorb that or they are going to pass it along to the consumer." Libau added, "It will make everything more expensive that travels to us over the roads including groceries."
The Lamont administration has promoted urgent climate action - noting that over the next several years flooding will get worse, droughts more common, storms more severe and the average temperature could increase by 5-degrees. "We have to take urgent action now. To prevent things from getting even worse after 2050," said Dykes.
And Governor Lamont says it’s not a guarantee that wholesalers would pass along their extra cost - noting they would want to remain competitive in their pricing. "I need the naysayers to give the other solution for the transportation fund. This is my second effort," said the Governor.
His first effort, tolls, failed. And there’s a question if this regional approach to transportation investment would allow CT enough control over how money is spent. "Instead, this money will tax CT’s people but then will go a bunch or activists and academics in Washington D.C. who will decide how the money can be used," said Libau. While Commissioner Dykes insisted, "It will be completely up to Connecticut’s discretion about where we invest those dollars."
And for as many Northeastern states who are signing on to this initiative...just as many are also hesitant including New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. It’s estimated by conservative think tanks that it could cost the average household an extra $260 a year in fuel expenses.