Recent reports of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s desire to erect electronic tolling on select state roads is a slap in the face to those who pay taxes in Connecticut and purchase gasoline or diesel fuel for use in their vehicles and equipment. For decades, funds that were legislated to be collected for transportation development and maintenance have been diverted to the General Fund to be used for non-transportation purposes.
This has been accomplished by diverting funds after they were deposited into the Special Transportation Fund account or by diverting funds after they were collected but before they were deposited into that account. Only a shifty lawyer or politician could dream up the excuse that because transportation funds were diverted before they were deposited, it didn’t qualify as raiding the transportation fund.
Connecticut collects funds of all sorts that are supposed to be used specifically to maintain the bridges, roads, tunnels, etc. within the state. These include motor vehicle sales taxes, registration fees, gasoline and diesel fuel taxes, permits for commercial vehicles and a host of other things. Tolls would be a form of double taxation, especially for state residents whose vehicles are registered and serviced here.
I recently saw in a news report a union representative state that “all the other states have tolls” or something to that effect. Well, in December I drove 750 miles from here to North Carolina on I-84, I-81 and I-77, driving in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, and the only toll I paid on the whole 1,500 mile round trip was to cross the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge in New York while coming home! And I might add that the roads were a lot better than most in Connecticut.
So much for that argument.
As of the time that the Connecticut Public Transportation Commission was dissolved in June of 2016, more than $1 billion in funds had been diverted, and more since then. How many miles of state roads could have been repaved or how many bridges repaired and rehabilitated with those funds? Meanwhile, the shell game with the revenues of the state keep getting shifted from one deficit account to another, in the futile hopes of having the appearance of a balanced budget.
I am sure that members of both sides of the legislative aisle have voted to divert transportation funds over the years. However, if they now support highway tolls they are effectively double taxing people for money they have already paid for transportation maintenance. Legislators who voted to divert transportation funds in the past should recuse themselves from debating this issue. I urge all voters to contact their state representatives and strongly urge them to vote a resounding NO to implementing state tolls as a cover for betraying their previous fiscal responsibilities.
Craig Hoffman lives in Cheshire.