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Toll money will go up in smoke

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I noted in the Jan. 15th podcast with Heather from Good Morning Wilton that State Sen. Will Haskell wants “to hear directly from constituents…not just people who agree with me..the entire point is to hear from those with the opposite opinion and learn from each other.”  With that in mind, I am writing to voice my opposition to tolls because simply put, I don’t trust Sen. Haskell and his co-workers in Hartford with a penny of my or anyone else’s money.

Why don’t I trust them?  Because the toll money will be stolen and moved to cover expenses other than transportation in the same absurd manner that is being done out of the massive Tobacco and Health Trust Fund.

Connecticut received $1.9 billion from the tobacco settlement and the fund was created in 2002 to distribute funding to a variety of programs designed to reduce the prevalence and impact of tobacco use.  Consider this small sample of woefully unacceptable statistics about the money and disastrous outcomes:

  • Stolen money:  The fund has been raided 67 times by the State legislature
  • 98.5 percent of dollars diverted:  Of the $1.9 BILLION, only $28.5 million has been spent on programs – an unacceptable 1.5 percent of proceeds (I’ll come back to this pathetic percent)
  • Another skipped deposit in 2019:  Connecticut has contributed $0 to tobacco prevention efforts for the fifth year in a row
  • Failing grades:  This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association gave Connecticut these pathetic grades:

· Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F

· Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade D

  • Awful outcomes:  despite Billions available, Connecticut continues to fail
    • 1,100 Connecticut youth become smokers each year
    • 4,000 Connecticut residents die annually from their own smoking (that’s about one person during Sen. Haskell’s Town Hall Breakfast)

 

Although Sen. Haskell is the newest Democrat, his party has controlled the House and Senate in Connecticut for all 23 years of his life.  So to articulate this clear violation of trust to a personal and analogous level, recall that tuition, fees, room & board was $70,380 for his Senior year at Georgetown University.

Using the scam I outline above, I ask him to imagine his mom and dad (or the bank) handing him a check for $70,380, and he  only gives $1,000 to Georgetown. The other $69,000 vanishes – would his parents trust him?

Then he brings home a D and an F.  How would his parents feel?  Would he have ever made it beyond even his freshman year running this scheme?  Could this scheme lasted even four years of college let alone 18 as it has with tobacco money?  I bet his  parents would no longer trust him (and you see in this case, his  co-workers) with their dollars.  Why should voters, taxpayers and toll payers?

Kevin Kane

Norwalk

17 comments

Norwalk Lost February 16, 2020 at 1:11 pm

The left is desperate and continues to sell out the state to appease labor unions rather than making meaningful cost reductions. Inevitably, CT will be on the brink of financial collapse straddled with 100 billion in underfunded pensions or $75,000 per household. Tolls will be yet another symptom of the high cost structure plaguing the state forcing individuals and corporations to look elsewhere. Several billion dollars have already left the state in recent years – just a matter of time for when bankruptcy follows.

AngryNutmegger February 16, 2020 at 3:54 pm

How about the charges diverted from your utility bill? That “fee” was not supposed to go into the General Fund…it was for conservation.
How about the “fee” you pay on paint?
How about the “fee” you pay for a mattress?
How about the bottle deposit money?
Remember the tax for seat belts on buses after the accident outside of Hartford? The money was raided for years and then the program was ended and the entire amount was swept into the gaping maw called the General Fund. Not one seat belt was installed.
The list is extensive and basically reminds anyone who cares…Hartford can’t be trusted with money and it all ends up being diverted eventually.

Ron Morris February 16, 2020 at 4:45 pm

The right loves to just find fault. They always talk about reductions, yet never state what they would reduce. To the right wingers please break down dollar for dollar what you would cut and the cost savings. The best is the right talks about underfunded pensions, yet fails to state that these pensions were signed into the contract during the time that the Republican Rowland was Governor.

Joe February 17, 2020 at 2:28 am

We’ve been paying the highest gas taxes of most states for 30 years but most of that money has never been used for roads and bridges. How stupid is that.

Now the governor wants everybody to get stoned on dope. That will make it even easier to rip everybody off.

That’s the New Democrat plan. Just get everybody stoned and only worried about eating dessert and watching TV.

Joe February 17, 2020 at 2:53 am

There are plenty of common sense ways to save money and cut taxes.

1. Cut school holidays. School year begins 9/1 and ends 5/31. 3 full months summer vacation.

2. NO public education or welfare for illegal immigrants.,

3. No more pandering to single mothers. Cheek swabs easily identify fathers who must help their own kids 50-50.

4. Food Stamps ONLY provide powdered milk, powdered eggs and flour, raw vegetables and only spam for meat.
No more name brand processed foods for free. You want those, you gotta PAY!

That was easy. Right off the top of my head.

Bryan Meek February 17, 2020 at 10:06 am

Guaranteed COLAs were ruled against in the lower court for New Jersey. CT doesn’t have to give raises on pensions year after year, the same way SSA did for a number of years. But they do anyway to maintain votes and campaign contributions. That’s one thing that can be cut immediately.

The average pension payout for CT is now over $60,000 a year with workers contributing far less than 10% of their income.

The average SS payout its $18,000 a year with workers contributing 12.2% of their income matched by employers.

Republicans have brought up several proposals to fix this mess, but they don’t even have a seat at the table.

The OP is wrong about one thing….the Toll money is already spent on the looming pension crisis. The only thing that might save this state now is when Illinois goes insolvent first, hopefully Congress will expand Chapter 9 bankruptcy to include states..

For anyone who is interested, half way through the year revenues are $600 million less than what they were last year. The only difference is we are spending $500 million more than last year. The state is going to end the year on a massive deficit even after reducing funding to pension plans by 60%.

John Levin February 17, 2020 at 11:20 am

The most persuasive argument against tolls is that you don’t trust government and your elected representatives, and believe that money raised from tolls will be stolen? Mr. Kane – of course you are entitled to believe any set of conspiracy theories you wish, but the rest of us must live in the real world, and travel on real roads and real bridges. Ever tried crossing a bridge that has been closed, or removed?

AngryNutmegger February 17, 2020 at 5:11 pm

John Levin, read Alex Bergsteins OpEd and enjoy some group-think.It is the sorriest piece I have ever read on the topic.
Connecticut has a spending problem no matter the party in the governors office, but I will note that the legislature has been rather lopsided for decades.Toll revenue will vanish in the ether and rates will rise faster than UConn tuition.

Norwalk Business Owner February 17, 2020 at 7:48 pm

From these comments, it seems more people are paying attention to the numbers in our state budget, and relying less on the good intentions of big government advocates. Keep digging smart Connecticut-educated taxpayers. We all want an awesome economy, and without insults, we can get there.

Bryan Meek February 18, 2020 at 8:42 am

@John O’Neill. The Comptrollers monthly letter to the Governor for the 6 months ending 12/31/2019 show revenues $600 million below last years. 7.4 vs 8.0 billion.

See exhibit C. https://www.osc.ct.gov/reports/index.html

You have to look up the archived version from last year.

We’ll know more about the sorry state of affairs in a few weeks when January’s gets published. January 15th is the 2nd largest (April 15th larger sans refunds) collection period with the year’s last estimated payments due.

Michael McGuire February 18, 2020 at 3:25 pm

Ron Morris,

I thought they were pretty clear in the Fiscal 2019 GOP’s Proposed State Budget. It was a good start toward fiscal stability/responsibility.

My hats off to Mr. Haskell for asking for input and Mr. Kane for providing a good example to start with.

Lets hope that meaningful dialog prevails. Mr. Haskell is in a unique position to bring some wisdom to Hartford.

John Miller February 18, 2020 at 5:31 pm

I find it fascinating that Mr. Levin would characterize Kevin Kane’s commentary as a conspiracy theory without providing any definitive evidence that the information provided by Mr. Kane regarding how Connecticut diverted and squandered the $1.9 billion from the tobacco settlement is incorrect. As far as funds intended for the Special Transportation fund are concerned, we already know that the per gallon fuel excise taxes paid at the pump are diverted from the Special Transportation Fund. Both Senator Haskell and Senator Osten have openly admitted that, which negates your contention that Mr. Kane’s commentary is a conspiracy theory. It’s a fact. Additionally, those who claim that “trucks don’t pay their fair share” conveniently fail to mention and account for the annual fuel taxes that interstate motor carriers pay to Hartford as a result of the International Fuel Tax Agreement or what happens with the 8.1% PGET taxes that are paid by the fuel distributors. By the way, Connecticut was collecting fuel use taxes from carriers decades before the IFTA was formally adopted. When a government imposes a tax on it’s citizens for a specific purpose such as road. bridge and infrastructure maintenance and repair, using these funds for any other purpose is inherently dishonest and an insult to the individuals and businesses who pay these taxes. Decades of fiscal mismanagement and deceiving the citizens of Connecticut by our leaders in Hartford (both Democrat and Republican)is what has put us in the position that we are in today, not the lack of road use and fuel tax revenue. This is not a conspiracy theory. It is a fact.

John ONeill February 20, 2020 at 12:05 am

@John Miller – Good points
@ George – Talk about throwing a wrench in the works..Only time will tell. I guess next line will be CT can’t afford to support new school because bonding going towards infrastructure instead of toll money..

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