Tolls: A Created Crisis

Posted on March 26, 2019 by admin


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Winston Churchill coined the phrase, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.  Some Connecticut public officials have taken this notion to a new level by creating a crisis to justify tolls.  Proponents of tolls have written the narrative that Connecticut’s transportation fund is broke.  In fact, Connecticut spends over $2 billion dollars annually on transportation infrastructure and operations, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.  In 2017, Connecticut projected an operating deficit in future years, thus, requiring a plan for solvency.  Democrats wanted tolls, and Republicans wanted to prioritize our spending.  In the end, both parties agreed to phase in a transfer of 100 percent of the sales tax from the purchase of motor vehicles into the special transportation fund, thus fixing the projected insolvency.  Governor Lamont’s budget diverts that transfer back to the general fund, thus violating that Transportation Lock Box approved by the voters and plunging the fund back into insolvency.  His budget now resurrects the battle cry for tolls on almost all of our major highways throughout the state.

Roughly four bills proposing some sort of tolling are circulating around the Capitol.  Three of the bills passed out of the Transportation Committee last week on a party line vote.  House Bill 7280 proposes that a toll plan be created by the Department of Transportation.  Once the plan is submitted to the legislature, it is deemed approved within 15 days if no action is taken.  This “deemed approved” language is hardly a profile of courage and constitutes a complete abdication of legislative responsibility.  It’s astounding to me that the legislature would grant authority for an agency to establish one of the largest tax increases on its residents without an affirmative vote.  The plan must include a proposal to implement electronic tolling on I-95, I-91, I-84, and portions of Rt. 15 – and “any other limited access highway, or portions thereof, if the commissioner determines it necessary”.  This bill is essentially setting Connecticut up to be the most heavily tolled state in the country, and in fact would have more tolls than all of the New England states combined!

Notably absent from these bills is a prioritization of spending, mechanisms to find efficiencies and long-term planning for Connecticut’s infrastructure future.  Whether you are for or against tolls, these three elements must appear in a transportation bill that seeks to improve our bridges, buses, trains and roads.  The current proposals will cost residents between $1,000 to $1,500 per vehicle depending on commutes, plus any other increase in consumer goods and services passed to customers due to this mileage tax.  Proponents of tolls have created this crisis and have prioritized taxing their residents over prioritized planning and finding efficiencies for our transportation needs, and if that is not an insult enough, they’ve proposed to hand this taxing authority to non-elected officials.  If you are going to create a crisis for tolls, at least have the courage to vote for it.