Wilton letter: The courage to say no to tolls
To the Editors:
Pro-tolls advocates Berritt and Goldrick have been busy attacking toll opponents. Now they are deriding Hartford Democratic legislators. They believe some lack the courage to disregard the will of the people. After all, their Democratic party controls all of state government —the process, the bills, the votes. With so many Democrats running on a pro-tolls platform, tolls seemed a forgone conclusion. But something extraordinary happened. Much like the push to regionalize local schools, a grassroots anti-toll movement erupted.
Ordinary people staged protests, emailed and called from all over the state to signal their opposition. Their actions swayed enough pro-toll legislators that a vote has yet to be called. Many legislators now fear that voting for tolls could cause them to lose their seat. This fear is not unfounded.
There is real concern that Connecticut already taxes too much and that tolls will make the state even more unaffordable.
People became distrustful once the lockbox on the Special Transportation Funds (STF) was unlocked. The Democrats’ budget diverts $58 million of the car sales tax slated for the STF into the General Fund.
Additionally, a major share of transportation funds are being spent on some of the nation’s highest overhead costs. A transportation research foundation reported that Connecticut spent $209,157 total cost per lane-mile of road, compared to the national average of $71,117. Connecticut also ranked first in administrative cost per mile. The cost per lane-mile in Connecticut was $35,028 while the average is $4,501. These costs have increased precipitously over recent years because of the state’s inability to fund its pension liability.
Berritt and Golick state “the lack of tolls is responsible for the state’s poor road conditions and the Mianus River Bridge collapse in 1983.” Note, tolls were removed from Connecticut’s highways in 1985. They also maintain that lack of federal funds are also to blame. But, federal funds were increased substantially when tolls were removed. They are emphatic that the gas tax is regressive. Yet, tolls are even more regressive and arbitrary. Further, states with tolls like New York do not have Connecticut’s car property tax. And, New Jersey increased their gas tax along with their tolls. Its gas tax is now equal or higher than states without tolls.
Pro-toll writers are correct when they ask Democrats to develop a backbone and have the courage to act. Their actions, however, should not reflect the desire of those who have a personal agenda or stand to gain financially from tolls. They should listen to the people and take tolls off the table. They should have the courage to address Connecticut’s depressed job market, business growth and home values instead. They should have the courage to say no to tolls and to entrenched special interests that dominate the legislature. They are responsible for rising pension costs, administrative overhead and the high cost of living that are driving so many out. That is the courage the public wants to see in their elected officials.
Wilton, Sept. 4