Stratford residents, legislators talk tolls, taxes and spending

January 23, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Stratford Star

By Melvin Mason on January 21, 2015

Tom Yates of Stratford, foreground left, was among local residents who met with area Republican state legislators at Blue Sky Diner on Tuesday. Rep. Ben McGorty (122nd), center, and Sen. Kevin Kelly (21st), right, listened and spoke.

Tolls, cutting taxes on Social Security benefits and creating jobs are among the concerns Stratford residents brought to state representatives on Tuesday during a community conversation.

Sen. Kevin Kelly and state Reps. Laura Hoydick and Ben McGorty met with residents for more than an hour at the Blue Sky Diner.

The lively discussion brought out those who wanted to make points as well as folks who simply wanted to hear what the lawmakers were up to before heading back to Hartford.

Tom Yates came to talk with the lawmakers about several matters, primarily tolls being installed on state highways. State officials have discussed the idea of returning tolls to Connecticut for the first time since the 1980s.
Yates opposes tolls and would rather add a $10 charge to vehicles registered in the state as a way to gather more funds. Fees for trucks would be slightly higher, he said.

Yates wanted to let lawmakers know also that he’d like a full interchange to be built on Route 33 near Interstate 95 to create easier access for drivers heading north.

Susan Worley said she’d welcome a return to tolls, though she remembered marching in 1983 to oppose tolls after the deadly accident on I-95 that led to tollbooths being removed from the turnpike.

“There are other ways” to handle tolling, Worley said.

Instead of having manned tollbooths, she said, the state should take advantage of E-ZPass technology so drivers don’t have to stop and pay.

“Drivers just pass through and drive to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and they never stop,” she said.

Worley also wants legislators to look into what can be done to lower utility costs. Kelly voiced concerns about President Barack Obama’s proposal to make community college free for qualifying students. While the idea sounds good, Kelly said, the state should be able to pay for such a project on its own rather than look for a partner.

“If the state thinks it’s a good idea, the state should fund it itself,” Kelly said.

“I’m not arguing that a college education and better manufacturing education and skills are not a necessary part of a healthy economy, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I’m criticizing him on the concept that when he has a good idea, he doesn’t just fund it. He looks for a partner, and that’s what the problem with the state is. We do the same thing with the state government.”

Worley pointed to her recent United Illuminating bill, which is $75 more than last year. If that continues, life in places like Maryland and Illinois looks a lot more inviting, she said.

Several residents are also interested in ending taxes on Social Security benefits. McGorty said he’s introduced legislation to have those taxes eliminated.

One woman said it seems as though state Democrats and Republicans are always at odds. Kelly, a Republican, said there have been some projects with bipartisan approval, including passage of a bill to allow for the redevelopment of the former Army Engine Plant facility on Main Street. The town received a $200,000 grant last September to help assess the contamination at the site. Point Stratford Renewal is working to complete a transaction to purchase the property from the U.S. Army.

“The Army Engine Plant is an example of where Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a bill that will enable the redevelopment of that parcel,” Kelly said.