Letter: Tolls, what is the big deal Connecticut?

To the Editors:
Some observers wonder why people in Connecticut are making such a fuss over toll proposals. After all, most of us pass through tolls regularly. They are part of everyday life in surrounding states so what is the big deal? Why are protests popping up all over?
An honest dialogue is needed on what could become one of the most costly tax increases for residents coming on the heels of historic increases in 2015 and 2011 that have people and jobs leaving.
Connecticut’s economy is an ecosystem. Everything is connected. Legislators should be asking how tolls and taxes taken as a whole will impact businesses and taxpayers. Any increases to the cost of living should be closely scrutinized, especially since Connecticut is one of the only states that has not recovered from the great recession and GDP growth is at 0.4%.
Tolls are commonplace. What is not commonplace is the sheer volume of Connecticut taxes other states don’t have:

  • High income tax that does not allow deductibles.

  • High car property taxes.

  • Eight percent gross petroleum gas added to a high gas excise tax.

  • Real estate conveyance tax.

  • Gift and estate taxes.

  • Social security and pension taxes.

  • Luxury sales tax.

  • High licensure fees.

  • Highest property tax in the country.

Connecticut could become the most tolled state in the nation. Tolls on cars and trucks would spread across 53 to 80 gantries. High administrative costs (Connecticut spends more than $83,000 per mile in administrative costs compared to $10,000 per mile nationally) and toll avoiders have DOT showing revenue estimates based on toll prices of up to four times the highest rate in the country.
Studies find 60 to 75 percent of toll revenues would come from Connecticut drivers. This would hurt businesses and workers whose jobs require daily travel.
Since workers cannot dictate their schedules, congestion pricing is regressive as it penalizes those who least can afford it. Note the $46 congestion pricing for a10-mile one-way trip on I-66 in Virginia.
Connecticut receives approximately $528.6 million in federal funds to make up for lack of tolls. Those funds could be lost if tolls move forward.
Higher truck tolls equal higher prices that will be passed along to consumers in higher costs for goods and services.
Drivers avoiding tolls will create congestion and wear and tear on local roadways from tractor-trailers and increased traffic.
One bill allows tolling without General Assembly approval if no vote is taken within 15 days of convening the legislature. Another creates a transportation authority that decides toll placement and rates without a vote taken. This would absolve legislators from taking responsibility for tolls or pricing.
There is an alternative. “Prioritize Progress” is a new funding plan that utilizes state resources to provide $65 billion for infrastructure projects over 30 years without tolls or taxes. It requires that all bonding, beyond the state’s core needs such as school construction, must go to transportation infrastructure.
Like it or not, a toll is tax and a big deal for Connecticut!
Toni Boucher
Wilton, March 8