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Opinion: Want tolls? Ditch the gross receipts tax on gasoline

In his recent op-ed in support of highway tolls, Richard DeLuca fails to mention or makes just a passing mention of the raiding of gasoline tax revenue,  and totally fails to mention that we have the hidden gas tax called the Gross Receipts Tax or GRT.

The GRT Tax was originally created to award funds for proper clean up of underground gasoline storage tank leaks which if left unchecked would have created an environmental nightmare for Connecticut.  It should also be noted that the industry supported this fund with an all-voluntary board to award those funds. That board went further by punishing those that did not do proper clean-ups or had sloppy record-keeping — in some cases not awarding anything for clean ups.  I know because I was a non-paid member of that board.

Let me make this very easy: Voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, remember the past of raiding the Special Transportation Fund. We are talking about billions of dollars, in fact, to date could be as much as $4 billion. Yep with a B!

With that said,  I agree tolls are the way to go, but to insure raiding/robbing the fund will never ever happen again — because we don’t trust either side of the isle and the current lock box is like Swiss cheese with enough holes to drain it in a year –, the following must be done:

  1. Eliminate the hidden gas tax called the gross receipts tax. That saves the voters who have been paying the tab and the ones who were robbed. It’s a break that makes sense.
  2. The Transportation Lock box must be a real lock box that can only be changed by a voter referendum. That restores the trust that has been broken with the taxpayers of this state. If highway toll money is really going to only be used for transportation and not misdirected, what is the problem?

The only reason the governor or either party would not do this is if the real intent is to redirect the toll revenue like they have in the past. Both parties are too blame for this!

Now is the time to restore trust to those who pay the bills – the taxpayers of Connecticut. Period!

Michael J. Fox Sr. is Executive Director of the Gasoline and Automotive Service Dealers of America, Inc. This column was originally published on CTMirror.org.

11 comments

John Levin August 17, 2019 at 6:37 am

Disagree. I think we should tax gasoline, and diesel, the way we tax cigarettes and alcohol. Gas is much more expensive in almost every other country in the world. The result: people choose to drive smaller cars, drive less, share rides, use public transportation and bikes, and pollute less. Our roads would be less crowded because people would drive less (traffic congestion is a hidden tax that no one mentions and is never measured).

Sure this would be a regressive tax, but their are ample ways to fix that part: make the state income tax more progressive and maybe reduce the state sales tax. Mandate statewide sharing of property taxes so that our wealthiest towns no longer enjoy vast revenue relative to their poorer neighbors.

Mr. Fox represents his industry – gas station owners, and appropriately wants to see lower taxes on their primary product. As a Connecticut resident, car owner, and reluctant driver, I would rather see gasoline taxed to discourage its use. Over time, technology likely will do this anyway: fast forward a few decades and Mr. Fox’s industry might not even exist, or perhaps be surviving only as a sliver of its current size. Tax policy should be used to serve voters and residents, not the clients of well paid lobbyists and industry associations.

Kevin Smith August 17, 2019 at 8:03 am

I totally agree with the stipulation that the revenues be hardwired to their intended purpose. I remember tolls in CT and when they were removed we got high gasoline taxes to “maintain our roads”.
Now the money’s gone the roads are a disaster and our politicians are saying ” yes but we REALLY mean it this time” I’m not Charlie Brown I won’t watch you pull the football away. No tolls without ironclad laws that stipulate where funds go AND rules that prevent zeroing out current infrastructure budgets so the revenue is additive not just a substitute for the current inadequate spending.

John ONeill August 17, 2019 at 2:57 pm

Some points: 1) Hartford politicians have proven over and over again they can’t be trusted – transportation fund has already had $2 billion diverted over past 15 years. How can we trust them on tolls? 2) Europeans not only have higher fuel taxes, but higher taxes on practically everything. The European model doesn’t work – See Spain, Italy, Greece, France and every other European country. Their economic growth has been minimal over past 50 years. Is that what we want? Plus, they’re broke. 3) Tolls will be used to pay for non infrastructure programs – Pennsylvania and New York politicians have proven this. If we think otherwise, we’re suckers. 4) They don’t even have a plan on how they’re planning to spend the addl revenue. How do you charge for something without knowing how it’s going to be spent? We spent 600 billion dollars on bogus bus route to Hartford. What’s the plan? No plan is a vote for No tolls. 5) We still don’t know about hospital settlement. How much will this cost?. Where’s Duff on this? I’m disappointed I’ve becone cynical,but Hartford’s amateur political show is a disgrace.

Bryan Meek August 17, 2019 at 5:37 pm

Toll revenue is needed so that we can paint Ned Lamont’s name on every sign.

I get the ones at the border……maybe…..but the one on the Merritt in Stratford?

Diane Keefe August 19, 2019 at 1:48 pm

We need tolls now because we can’t wait to repair our roads and bridges. Republicans Gail Lavielle, Terrie Woods and Tom O’Dea are being obstructionist.

If they and other Republicans can only cast aspersions on Hartford maybe they should let others committed to public service (like Ned Lamont and Bob Duff) get infrastructure improvements done.

Bonding for transportation just makes tax payers pay more so the Republican solution is anything but.
I hope every voter remembers at election time that Republicans in the state Senate and General Assembly rejected a 40% discount on our transportation infrastructure which tolls can deliver from tolls paid by out of state drivers. Republicans are putting politics over the needs of state citizens, communities, and businesses. Progressive provisions in the toll proposal protect CT tax payers who earn less than $100,000 are indicative of Lamont’s visionary leadership. He deserves a victory on tolls this fall.

John ONeill August 19, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Two questions to ponder: 1) If we can’t wait to fix infrastructure why in the world would Legislators diverted $ 2 billion dollars away from Transportation fund over the past 15 years. 2) Why would we spend $600 million dollars on ridiculous New Britain to Hartford Bus Line? — Should those dollars have been better spent repairing roads and bridges? 3) If anyone thinks toll revenue won’t be diverted, see point number 1.

Okeezy August 19, 2019 at 3:27 pm

The exodus of 3 billion dollars of wealth out of the state over the past several years should be pause enough to address the cost side of the equation. So why are we still pushing tolls when they are widely unpopular and rejected by Connecticut citizens/voters? It is brazen for politicians to keep rehashing this issue while no structural cost reductions are ever put on the table. This is not how our representative democracy should work. On this one, the Republicans have it right!

Bryan Meek August 19, 2019 at 4:38 pm

@Diane, until the other half of the electorate holds Bob Duff accountable to actually deliver infrastructure improvements, he will gladly abuse your generosity at the ballot box to continue ignoring the needs of lower Fairfield County, while supporting things like $600 million busways from New Britain to Hartford that require an annual $20 million operating subsidy. That’s right. The 3000 riders on the New Britain busway get $20 million and in Norwalk our 11,000 school children get $11 million and no infra improvements. Then lets talk about the train to Springfield and hundreds of other little projects that have done nothing to improve our situation here where we generate 2/3s of the receipts (and dwindling thanks to out migration of businesses and the wealthy).

John ONeill August 19, 2019 at 6:31 pm

How about auto registration fees that are now being diverted away from state parks…the list goes on and on. The arrogance is mind blowing. We’re up to our eyeballs in debt, and one of our novice senators is pushing air conditioning for correctional facilities. They already have a better nurse/patient ratio than law abiding citizens. The world does seem upside down right now..Pure lunacy..

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