Connecticut Senator Loses Challenge of Malloy Toll Study

This E-ZPass toll plaza is in New York. (Photo via ny.gov)

HARTFORD (CN) — Tossing claims from a Connecticut lawmaker, a judge said he lacked jurisdiction to decide whether Governor Dannel P. Malloy usurped legislative authority by deciding unilaterally to fund a toll study.

“You can’t sue someone who hasn’t harmed you,” the 5-page decision from Judge Thomas J. Moukawsher states.

During oral arguments earlier this week, Moukawsher wondered if the court could consider a claim that a governor nullified a senator’s vote by refusing to carry out a law passed with his support. The Supreme Court hasn’t considered the issue yet.

The trouble is that Senator Joe Markley, the Republican who is contesting Malloy’s decision to direct $10 million in bonding toward a study of electronic tolls, didn’t vote to authorize the bond funds that were used for the study.

“Had he voted for the bills and had the bills banned spending to research tolls, he might have an argument that his vote was nullified by the governor spending on them anyway,” Moukawsher wrote. “But not only did the senator vote against the bills, the bills that passed didn’t expressly ban spending on toll research.”

Moukawsher said Markley wished a bill had passed to ban spending on tolls, but it didn’t.

“Given the defeat of his view in the General Assembly, the governor’s action didn’t change the impact of the senator’s ‘no’ vote in any way,” Moukawsher wrote.

A candidate this year for lieutenant governor, Markley joked after oral arguments Wednesday that maybe it would have been a good idea to vote for the bond package which authorized the funding used for the study. At the same time he speculated that both a no vote and a yes vote should hold the same weight.

The bond authorization did not include any specifics about the tolls study. Malloy, who is a Democrat, later used an executive order and received Bond Commission approval for the spending.

Noting that the General Assembly had already failed three times to pass similar legislation regarding toll studies, Markley, who is not an attorney, argued that Malloy overreached with his executive order.

“It’s not just a reckless waste of money now — it sets a precedent for future executive overreach,” Markley said when he filed the lawsuit. “Even by Dan Malloy’s standards, this is an arrogant abuse of power, coming at the expense of Connecticut’s citizens and laws.”

Having removed its toll booths in 1983 after a tractor trailer killed six people at a Stratford toll booth, Connecticut is the one of the only states in New England without some form of electronic highway tolls. Vermont also does not have electronic tolls even though some of its roads are tolled.

Even though the special transportation fund that the state uses to improve roads has been suffering from a lack new revenue sources, the Legislature is divided on whether to put e-tolls in place. As vehicles become more fuel efficient or completely electric, the fund will continue to become more insolvent as each year goes by — an issue with which states all across the nation are grappling. And because Connecticut is a small state, interstate drivers can easily avoid filling their tanks at Connecticut prices, generally speaking.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office applauded Thursday’s result. “We believe the court has ruled correctly in dismissing this case, and we will continue to defend the matter in any appeal,” she said.

Markley has not confirmed that he will appeal.

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