CT House speaker: Special session may be needed for toll vote

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Top state leaders signaled Monday that Connecticut's tolls issue may not be settled in the next few weeks, and could instead drag into the summer -- or even longer.

There are two weeks left of the session and a tolls plan remains unfinalized. The state House speaker says that lawmakers may need to return for a special session on tolls.

It comes after some 2,000 toll protesters converged on the state Capitol this weekend. And a "No Tolls" petition has been signed by 100,000 people.

MORE: Connecticut Transportation Coverage

The top two Democrats in the House said Monday that they don't think the weekend rally changed any minds. But House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz also says he's not sure they can get tolls passed by their June 5 deadline.

"This is the type of issue I would like to get done before we adjourn, but I wouldn't be opposed to coming back in special session too," he said. "It's that important to this state."

Aresimowicz says a special session could keep lawmakers focused. "It's a single issue; that's what you're here for. There's no manipulating," he says. "There's no, 'Hey, I'll do this if -- I would like this.' It's front and center, on the table."

Republicans say they will not support tolls under any circumstances, so it's up to Democrats to corral enough votes.

"It tells me they're in real trouble with their caucus. They don't have the votes for tolls," says Republican Steve Kolenberg, of the Stamford Board of Representatives.

Many Democrats say the devil is in the details, and until they see those details, they can't commit to a toll plan.

The draft toll plan would freeze rates for the first three years. In-state drivers would pay half-off rates, with even deeper discounts for low-income drivers. Bus fares would drop, and the gas tax would go down 1 cent a gallon each year for the next five years.

The draft would also guarantee toll money will go to specific projects, like the Merritt Parkway-Route 7 interchange in Norwalk, the Heroes Tunnel in New Haven and the Mixmaster in Waterbury.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hundreds of protesters rally in Hartford against proposed toll 
Details remain fuzzy as state Finance Committee OK's highway toll plan 
Gov. Lamont continues push to bring tolls to CT 
No Tolls CT to deliver 100K-signature petition to Gov. Lamont's office 

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