Connecticut faces yet another insidious tax hike: road tolls. The saddest part is that more efficient solutions exist to our aging and congested road network.
For those who haven’t heard, our Governor and legislatures are seriously considering implementing tolls across most of the major highways here in CT. The proceeds would in theory go to repairing and improving our transportation network. I say “In theory” because the legislatures have siphoned funds from the transportation budget before.
Repairs are needed, right? Yes. Why we can’t properly handle road maintenance, a basic governmental function, is beyond me.
Tragically even when Connecticut had tolls the money didn’t prevent the CT Mianus bridge collapse in 1983 from killing 3 people. During road repairs 10 years prior the drains were purposely blocked on the bridge but never unblocked. The metal rotted out and collapsed. Twelve state engineers were spread too thin to monitor our 3,425 bridges.
Many years later our road network is still underfunded and in disrepair.
The problems with tolls
Tolls in Connecticut will just increase congestion on local roads thereby burdening towns with additional maintenance. Guess who will pay for that. I’ve heard friends emphatically state there’s no way they’re paying tolls to get to work as local roads work just fine.
Tolls are the most inefficient means of raising $1 billion annually. Why? Because there’s a significant cost, $372 million, to implement the toll gantries and a whole bureaucracy (yes a new department is being born) to manage the collection process. Of course the bureaucracy comes with a price tag of $100 million annually.
Between the capital cost and ongoing costs, I wonder, who benefits from that? A new revenue stream of $1 billion liberates the legislature from making the tough decisions to live within our means.
When will common sense prevail in our legislature to solve this with resolve and efficiency?
Yes, Connecticut has a crumbling road network problem. There are 3 ways to solve it:
- Use bonding. Take out specific bonds to solve specific repair and growth needs. This enables us to fix the roads without incurring an annual tax of $1 billion FOREVER.
- Increase the gas tax. For this to work we must ensure new receipts go into the ‘lockbox’ just for transportation use. This method is very efficient since the infrastructure already exists. No need for $372 million toll gantries and no need for a $100 million annual toll department bureaucracy. Yes this is a regressive tax, but, that’s no different than toll booths and at least it’s A LOT more efficient. The red herring to justify bypassing the gasoline tax is spurious at best: gasoline tax is flat and likely declining so we need tolls. Gasoline taxation encourages public transportation use and eco-friendly vehicles. As electric vehicle use increases we can always institute a charging station use tax. We can also directly tax electric vehicles; after all, DMV knows every single electric or hybrid vehicle in the state.
- Live within our means. Currently Connecticut’s annual operating budget is $40.5 billion. Many families awake to the reality of their financial problems and cut expenses, Connecticut can do the same thing. If we need $1 billion a year to fix the roads then institute an across the board 2.5% budget cut and require that savings go to transportation. Problem solved. Corporate board rooms and families make the needed cuts, why can’t our legislature?
I’m in favor of option 3 but that’s least likely given our current state of spending fever. I’m torn between option 1 and 2 as bonding avoids any regression tax but requires us to incur borrowing cost. Either option is preferred over tolls.
So what can you do?
The same thing I did and the same thing WWW.NOTOLLSCT.ORG encourages….
First, identify your State Senator and House Representative by clicking.
Second, call your State Senator and Representative using the phone numbers below. Urge them to reject tolls in Connecticut.
HOUSE DEMOCRATS (800) 842-1902
HOUSE REPUBLICANS (800) 842-1423
SENATE DEMOCRATS (800) 842-1420
SENATE REPUBLICANS (860) 842-1421
Call them! Call them each day and then again on Thursdays. Tell them you oppose tolling in Connecticut. Leave your name, number and address so they know you’re serious.