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Opinion: Say NO to TOLLS

 

Toni Boucher is a Connecticut businesswoman and former District 26 State Senator.

There will be a public hearing on the toll bill on Friday, Jan. 30 in Hartford at 1 p.m. at the Legislative Office Building in room 1E. You can also submit testimony like I just did at [email protected]

See my comments below:

To the State Legislature Transportation Committee, 1/28/2020

I write in opposition to Draft Bill LCO #373 for the following reasons:

  • Tolls are a regressive tax that that hurts those less able to pay it.
  • Other states with tolls do not have a car property tax and so many other taxes as we do in CT.
  • Tolls will be an additional burden on a weak economy, its citizens and businesses that have yet to recoup from the great recession.
  • Adding to the cost of commuting is another disincentive to move to the state. The bill does not mention what tax will be eliminated if tolls are put in place.
  • Connecticut already has a high gas tax and a very high diesel fuel tax but at least they cover everyone that drives and not just those that have long commutes.
  • Trucks already pay high gas taxes and a pass-through tax in addition to diesel taxes of over $17 million a year. How much higher will goods and services cost us for this truck toll? Will the revenue from the truck pass-through fee go away?
  • The diversionary traffic will clough our already congested side streets and Route 1. The additional costs of repairing local roads fall on towns as trucks bypass the tolls like so many cars and trucks do in MA and NY.
  • Toll experts tell us that DOT cost estimates are severally underestimated. Connecticut estimates a 1 cent per transaction cost when experts that do this for a living in New York tell us that it is 5-8 cents to process toll fees and 50% more in the cost of the construction of toll gantries.
  • Tolls would be built in at least 12 locations throughout the state. Nothing in the bill stops the state from building additional toll locations in the future.
  • Trucks will have to pay right away, and cars could be next through a loophole in the bill.
  • The revenue forecasts in the bill do not even come close to what will be needed to pay for road and bridge improvements. Higher toll fees and more gantries will be in our future because protections in the bill are not enough to stop future car tolling.
  • The state has lost the trust of the public when it comes to protecting fees for their intended purpose. Examples are state raids on tobacco, energy and other funds.
  • The 684 toll puts CT taxpayers at risk for lawsuits from the trucking industry (i.e. Rhode Island) and legal challenges from the state of NY.
  • The ability to raise rates will be entirely in the hands of the new state Transportation Council. Lawmakers will not have to hold a vote to increase toll rates and answer to taxpayers. And there’s nothing taxpayers or lawmakers can do to stop them.
  • There is no sunset clause in this bill. Once in place tolls will never go away and can be expanded without public input.
  • It borrows more than the Republican no-tolls transportation plan, putting more debt on future generations, and still requires tolls.

 

The public does not know the numbers, which transportation projects will be funded, and which projects included in earlier proposals got eliminated. They will have no say on which transportation projects they need in their part of the state. The DOT and its Council will make all the decisions.

Finally, there is no explanation of if and how the Special Transportation Fund would remain in balance and how high toll fees will go. The public will have no say over future toll hikes nor where toll revenue will be used.

23 comments

David Muccigrosso January 30, 2020 at 8:11 am

I’m about as hardcore a progressive as it gets, but nothing about this toll plan sits right with me.

Even taking Mrs. Boucher’s arguments with a grain of salt, the major question I keep coming back to is, “Why THIS, why NOW?”.

And there’s no real good answer. Lamont just seems to want to have a signature legislative achievement. There’s nothing about being a progressive that says “change for change’s sake is GOOD”; that’s the province of *liberals*, not progs.

If we need more transportation funds to rebuild our roads, let’s raise taxes and pay for it. Or slaughter someone else’s sacred cow – I’m sure someone somewhere’s getting a sweetheart deal they don’t deserve, like, oh, say, all these developers we keep giving away millions to so they can tear down black and brown neighborhoods to build malls and bougie apartments for rich commuters.

John Levin January 30, 2020 at 9:38 am

Respectfully disagree. EVERY state on the Eastern Seaboard has road tolls (except Vermont?). When I drive my son to college near Philadelphia I pay >$50 in tolls to New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Can someone please explain why Connecticut is supposed to remain the patsy in this equation?

Ms. Boucher – I find most of your arguments specious. If a system has a flaw, or can be made better, that’s a weak argument to get rid of the whole thing. Any mistakes in our state’s tolling system can be fixed and improvements can be made – that’s why we have state legislators representing us. Apollo 1 didn’t land on the moon, Apollo 11 did.

Also, correction: tomorrow, Friday, is January 31st, the date of the public hearing.

Norwalk Parent January 30, 2020 at 9:43 am

Lamont and his tolls are everything wrong with CT .. a Greenwich millionaire disconnected from the middle class.. If tolls ever go to cars I will be moving out!

Thank you Toni!!

John ONeill January 30, 2020 at 11:00 am

It’s funny – Our legislators still don’t get it. We trust them as much as we’d trust Bernie Madoff with our money. They as a group remind me of the philandering husband who’s shocked upon receiving divorce papers. They haven’t “truly” passed a balanced budget in 40 years. According to Dan Malloy before 2014 reelection, any talk of deficits was preposterous. Maybe we’ve been a little naïve. If we trust our legislators on toll proposal, we’ll just be stupid. The old saying “Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me” comes to mind. One last thing to think about — State Senator Haskell cares more about installing diapers in I-95 Men’s Bathrooms than neighboring town’s school crisis. You can’t make this stuff up. When our local legislators vote for tolls, we need to vote them out of office in November. Do you think potential Norwalk High funding is a “payoff” for Duff’s support on tolls? If we’re going to take a “payoff” for toll support I can think of 10 things which would be more important.

George January 30, 2020 at 3:25 pm

John Levin. If you do a little searching you can get to Philly for about 2 bucks in tolls. I said it before here. Try 95 to 287 to 202. You’ll have 1 toll on 287 in NY State and one 1.25 on 202 going into PA. Now..going to Florida. Yep! Maybe 3 bucks. 95-287-78/81- 64, 228 to 95 or you can go 81 to 220 to 85 to 77 to 20 to 95 too. Once you pass the toll going into PA on 78 you can drive thru DE, VA, WVA, NC, SC, GA and Fl without any tolls. So you are not exactly correct and your reasoning for tolls is based on “lets do what other states do”. Okay. Put the tolls in and kill the income tax right?

carol January 30, 2020 at 6:32 pm

lets get tolls,enough up and back. why should we pay to travel through other states and no one pays to use our roads.
we cannot afford to raise taxes to pay for our infrastructure. if you don’t want to pay tolls there are back roads to use. lets pass tolls and get on to other problems.

John Miller January 30, 2020 at 7:41 pm

The link below is to a 2019 report issued by the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research entitled Taxes Paid by Motor Carriers in Connecticut which debunks the statements frequently made by politicians that interstate motor carriers passing through Connecticut get a “free ride.”

https://www.cga.gov/2019/rpt/pdf/2019-R-0003.pdf

Are any of these road and fuel use taxes finding their way into the Special Transportation Fund or are we simply going to add another layer to the cost of doing business in a state that is already known as one of the least business friendly in the United States by adding tolls? Does anyone really think that all of these fees and use taxes are not going to increase the cost of virtually everything that consumers purchase in the State of Connecticut?

Nora King January 30, 2020 at 8:38 pm

Those tolls cannot come fast enough. It baffles my mind the people that oppose them. Sit on I-95. 50% of the cars are from out of state. Trucks are everywhere. Maybe companies will start looking for other forms of transit and perhaps invest in rail lines or the waterways to get these trucks off the road and lower pollution.

Residente January 30, 2020 at 10:24 pm

For those interested in facing reality, acknowledging CT’s crumbling infrastructure with limited deficit resources, there is no better plan for fixing structurally deficient roads and bridges, than tolls. Decisions need to be made to fix the problem. If CT were to experience a situation like the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, we should all remember that Toni Boucher, and her fellow toll opponents are slowing down efforts to improve infrastructure, while offering ZERO constructive alternatives. Keep the toll money in your pocket Toni, while leaving the working class at risk. Some would rather be safe than sorry!

George January 31, 2020 at 5:39 am

Nora King. If cars are not going to be tolled then what difference does it make that 50 percent are from out of state?
Now about your fact that 50 percent of the cars are from out of state. Can you fully explain in detail how you arrived at your fact that 50 percent of the cars are from out of state?

Next. Part of the reason the roads and bridges are in bad shape is that the DOT is using highly corrosive chemicals and salts to treat the roads and bridges.

Will January 31, 2020 at 7:20 am

@ Nora King
I agree! Only, I’m usually on the Merritt, where at least 3 out of every 5 cars I see are out of state, but either way it adds up to a lot of our traffic woes being caused by out-of-state vehicles, who ought to be paying more to maintain our roads, etc. Surrounding states do the same to us, so to those who argue that tolls levied by Connecticut are somehow “unfair”, I say turnabout is fair play. But I will say this–these new tolls should *only* be levied on non-CT residents, given how much residents are already paying in taxes here. I sent Lamont my plan back when he got into office, but it doesn’t look like he listened: if we set up a camera system all around the state to capture all traffic entering & leaving (license plates), there won’t be any way to avoid the tolls by taking back roads in/through, and non-resident plates can be isolated and automatically sent a bill. I know the camera system works, because it’s working (on some roads) in states like MA, for example. Anyway, my point is this entire system could be set up to be fair to CT residents without ways for non-resident traffic to avoid paying.

John ONeill January 31, 2020 at 8:54 am

@Residente — Before you blame Boucher et al for a bridge collapse, you may want to research the BILLION dollars plus that has been diverted from Transportation over the past 10 years.(Did I say diverted, or should I say redirected?) Hey just this past budget season, they REDIRECTED $ 170 Million away that was earmarked for Transportation. And yes, those same people then turned around and BORROWED $100 Million in Bonding for Transportation. If you think that sounds moronic, I agree. Not to insult a USED car salesman (I apologize in advance) but these legislators are sounding more and more like Used Car salesman..

John Miller January 31, 2020 at 10:32 am

@Residente: You really need to research the facts. Connecticut particulates in the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) which requires carriers to pay fuel taxes based on the miles in and through the state even if the fuel wasn’t purchased in Connecticut. Between $25 and $30 million per year is paid to the state by out of state trucks because of the State’s decades long participation in the IFTA and think about asking our esteemed leaders in Hartford where all this money has gone and why our roads and bridges are crumbling. This State has been so fiscally irresponsible for so long that we might be out of options other than tolls but ask yourself if you really trust Hartford.
@Nora King: When’s the last time that you shopped at s supermarket that had a rail siding?

Bryan Meek January 31, 2020 at 10:57 am

We already collect fuel and registration taxes on out of state trucks. This is just a scam, but a desperately needed one to cover the hole in our pension time bomb that’s about to explode. The money will go to some projects here and there, but eventually just like the existing transportation fund, the emergency situation with pension funding will have to be addressed and they have no other options.

During the Malloy years, Norwalk’s share of pension funding for our teachers was about $40 million a year, which was below actuarial requirements making it one of the worst funded pension systems in the country. This year under Ned Lamont’s new scheme, we only funded it with $15 million. At current rate, it will be bankrupt in about 8 years and that’s assuming 6% growth in the market with no recession.

But worse than that. The number of trucks zigzagging through Norwalk neighborhoods right now with full adoption of Waze technology will only worsen once tolls are implemented.

John ONeill January 31, 2020 at 3:38 pm

I have to be honest — My head is spinning. There are so many stories about mismanagement of pensions, spending, taxing that you need to update a spread sheet so as not to forget. Net/Net — Our legislators (who have been fairly elected) have lied to us, misled us, and stolen from us are not to be trusted. IF they were honest with us, we might actually support what they’re doing. Will Haskell of Westport is just the latest master of nuance. His tale of his Mother having to go back to work because of lack of Paid Leave is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. She ran a boutique law firm for goodness sakes.

Residente January 31, 2020 at 5:15 pm

I’m aware that money intended for the transportation lockbox has been diverted, it is painful to see how dysfunctional Hartford is with misusing that. it would be good to follow the money because correcting it could help part of the problem but a shortfall remains. there is an expense control problem indeed. Realizing these problems is one thing and nobody is eager to pay tolls, but for actually addressing the infrastructure needs, I’ve yet to hear a more realistic solution than tolls.

John ONeill February 1, 2020 at 7:32 am

A more realistic approach is to have designated revenue streams for Transportation. Gas Sales Tax, wholsale fuel tax. Vehicle sales tax, out of state truck pass thru tax for example. Hey wait a minute, we have those taxes! In fact they are among the highest in the United States! !! Our roads should be in tip top shape. Why are these tax receipts not used for transportation?

Bryan Meek February 1, 2020 at 9:41 am

@Residente. Stop being part of the problem. CT road maintenance cost is 5x national average and new construction is 3x national average. If you can’t see the spending problems right in front of your face brought about by corrupt prevailing wage requirements and rigged bidding processes, then you are contributing to the issues. Can you simply ask yourself basic questions like why it has taken 10 years to replace some of the guardrails and a few bridges on the Merrit when the original roadway was built in 3 years? We can make this work, but first we need accountable leaders who can ask what works and what doesn’t and get rid of what doesn’t. The bridge replacement at exit 9 was a thing of marvel. That team within DOT should be running the whole show. The ones who can’t finish an intersection inside of 2 years like Westport Ave and East Ave need to be fired or demoted out of the decision making process. I think it was the same unit that decided to build a handicap sidewalk ramp on the corner of Deerwood and Newtown that has no connecting sidewalk or room for one on either side of it. We are simply being fleeced and adding Toll revenue will actually make our infrastructure worse as more money will just lead to more mismanagement. Until the mission of the DOT focuses on transportation and not longevity for the politically connected businesses and families with their hands in the til. Time to clean house.

Tom Belmont February 1, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Wiecker the Tax Governor, Malloy the Union Governor, Lamont, the Toll Governor?? He raided transportation funds to have an excuse for tolls?? What the hell? Trucks today, all vehicles tomorrow. Toll rates increase 10% 2nd year, 50% 3rd year,

We are over taxed and big tax payers are leaving. Illegal aliens are arriving and leftist officials are covering their health and welfare with our tax money….or is it TOLL MONEY!!!!!

Patriots! Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!!

Residente February 1, 2020 at 9:49 pm

Cleaning house is an option but that won’t happen, However I do like what Lamont is “trying” to do in a couple areas. CT is in the top 20% of highest gas taxes in the country. Pennsylvania is #1. Do the others have tolls?

Pennsylvania – Tolls yes
California – Tolls yes
Washington – Tolls yes
Hawaii – Tolls no
New York – Tolls yes
Michigan – Tolls no
Connecticut – Tolls maybe
Indiana – Tolls yes
New Jersey – Tolls yes
Florida – Tolls yes

Michigan will have tolls soon, so of the top 10 high gas tax states, CT and Hawaii won’t have toll revenue for infrastructure. Another similarity between the two: poor & problematic infrastructure.

https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/38886099/report-hawaiis-infrastructure-ranks-among-worst-in-nation/

I’ve recognized CT’s spending problem, pessimistic that can change.

Residente February 1, 2020 at 11:56 pm

Also consider, gas tax inherently declines 10% in 10 years as the auto industry pushes out electric cars.. with that, it’s not only roads, rails and bridges, but the antiquated electrical grid becomes the elephant in Hartford. How might those upgrades be funded? Carbon tax.

Will Erdef February 2, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Stop using logic and rationality to oppose tolls. Connecticut will continue preying on its’ working class and selling out the state to labor unions. This combined with the state’s national status as a premier sanctuary haven and growing welfare state will much model the Puerto Rican model and ultimately end in bankruptcy – bondholders beware! The one party super majority is determined to bring the state to the brink and extract every last dime until the state collapses.

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