Response to Jim Cameron’s Feb. 2 op-ed:
Jim, as a person who really does know the truth, it would benefit us all to tell the whole truth, so we can really learn from the past and fix the problem. Past administrations on both sides of the aisle have raided the Special Transportation Fund to the tune of $1.5 billion and counting as raids continue today.
If you really want our roads and bridges fixed, first we must stop the raiding.
Secondly, repay the funds taken before you tax us more.
Thirdly, tolls are the right way to go as higher gas mileage and higher gas taxes don’t work as was proven by the extensive study done by the legislature before the highest in the nation gas tax was reduced. In fact, that study showed a reduction in revenue as drivers filled up before they came into Connecticut and a high percentage of Connecticut drivers filled up in New York and Massachusetts border towns. Stations along those borders closed, thereby decreasing competition and driving retail prices even higher.
More facts: The gas tax revenue has gone up because we have two taxes on gasoline — one of them hidden. It is called the gross receipts tax and was intended to go for replacement of leaking underground gasoline tanks and cleanups. Gov. Dannel Malloy terminated that program and kept the tax. Again, another mistake of the past that we have not learned from. That mistake: imposing a dedicated tax that was working as intended, raiding it, and then keeping the tax and not using it at all for the original intended purpose. Sound familiar? Lottery for schools – now we still need funding for schools and lottery funds have been diverted.
So, if the imposing the highest gasoline tax in the nation, and diverting another tax to clean up gasoline spills do not provide enough funds for our roads and bridges — Jim you are right — we need to learn from the past.
Over 45 percent of the traffic on our roads since tolls were removed comes from out-of-state traffic. When 45 percent of the cars on our roads pay nothing, how in the world do we expect to keep up with repairs?
So, learning from the past, my suggestions on what needs to be done — in this order:
Create a lock box so tight it would take a two-thirds majority of both chambers to change it. (Think how hard that it would be to get both parties to agree, so no raiding of STF Funds.)
Impose tolls. Two reasons that again makes sense. Higher mileage cars pay the same as others and tolls charge all who use and abuse our roads, not just Connecticut taxpayers.
Reduce or eliminate the Gross Receipts Tax over time as toll revenues come in. That will be an immediate reduction to residents who pay for gasoline here in Connecticut and therefore reduce the amount of burden for paying tolls. Also, lower gasoline prices will increase gas tax revenue as those out of state users of our roads will buy gas here in Connecticut because Massachusetts and New York prices will now be higher than Connecticut’s.
The legislative report to cut the gas tax proved three things: increases in the gasoline tax resulted in much higher gas prices than the amount of the gas tax increase and clearly explains why, for example, a penny increases in the gas tax usually resulted in three or more cents per gallon in retail gas prices. Reductions in the gas tax resulted in the same thing — a 5-cent reduction in the gas tax resulted in an 8- to 10-cent reduction the retail price of gasoline. More gasoline sold equals more tax revenue, less gasoline sold equals less tax revenue. You do not need a rocket scientist to figure this out.
The gross receipts tax is a percentage tax. Each time the wholesale price of gasoline goes up, that tax goes up, so since January 2018, that tax already has increased more than the governor is proposing to increase the gas tax.
The raiding and mistakes of the past have always been the problem. Until we have a governor who leads with the facts and not politics, our taxes will continue to increase, and the problems will continue to grow.
Fix it first! Please, Jim, tell the whole truth to expose the continue mistakes of the past.
Michael J. Fox Sr. is Executive Director of the Gasoline and Automotive Service Dealers of America, Inc.