Forget mileage taxes; claw back diverted transportation funds

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Television and published reports have recently covered the talks going on in Hartford about ways to fund Gov. Dannel Malloy’s $100 billion, 30-year transportation infrastructure plan. These include discussion of a plan to tax motorists according to the number of miles they drive.

Apparently, third party professionals are being consulted about the pros (and cons?) of implementing this scheme.

I would like to pose some of my own questions about this.

1. Will state vehicles be exempt from the mileage tax? There are hundreds of state vehicles like police cruisers, highway work vehicles, vehicles assigned to state bureaucrats, etc. Like the taxpayer’s cars and trucks, all of those vehicles create wear and tear on the highways and bridges, too.

2. If state vehicles will be exempt, would city and town vehicles also be exempt from the proposed tax? If not, why not? Government is government, whether it’s state or local.

3. Out-of-state vehicles use our roads, too — probably traveling a substantial percentage of the total highway miles driven in a year in the state. How will those vehicles be taxed without physical tool booths to capture the revenue from them for their miles driven? Would it be fair to Connecticut residents to give them a pass on the tax?

4. Those who already register vehicles in another state would be getting a free ride if out-of-state vehicles are not subject to the same tax. Is that fair to someone who does not live out of state for six months and a day but does live here the whole year?

5. Will the state force automobile owners to install remote data technology so the state can capture actual miles driven in Connecticut? Is the state going to pay for the cost of the equipment and the installation of it in every Connecticut registered vehicle? (I sincerely doubt it.)

Those are just a few of the questions that need to be answered in any discussion about this proposed tax plan. And it is probably fair to say that whatever the original estimate of the cost would be, the actual final costs, when all is said and done, will be much greater.

Before this plan is even considered, I have a radical idea that I would like to propose to all.

For as long as I have been living in this state (since 1972), drivers have paid annual license and registration fees; gasoline taxes (some of the highest in the nation); tolls on selected roads (until they were fully eliminated after the 1983 fiery crash on I-95); gross receipts taxes on gasoline, diesel and other oils; etc.

These taxes were collected for the express purpose of building and maintaining our roads, bridges and the associated infrastructure. And probably for decades, the legislature has raided the transportation fund to pay for other social programs as well as the general operation of state government — meaning, the salaries and benefits of state employees.

Since Connecticut and other drivers in the state have already paid some form of taxes for highway maintenance that was never performed because it was diverted elsewhere, implementing a new mileage tax for neglected highway maintenance is essentially double taxation, which is ILLEGAL.

I propose that a study be quickly done to tally up every nickel that has been diverted from the Transportation Fund over the past 20 years — by BOTH PARTIES — along with what social programs or agencies were the recipient of those diverted funds. Then, every nickel of those diverted funds should be clawed back from their budgets and re-deposited into the Transportation Fund and used for the intended purpose of transportation infrastructure maintenance.

Only after that has happened should any discussion be started about how to further fund repair of the state’s crumbling infrastructure.

I urge all readers to contact their state representatives and demand that this occur before even considering something like a mileage tax or any new “revenue enhancements.”

Craig Hoffman is a retired industrial engineer and quality manager who lives in Cheshire.

What do you think?

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