Am I the only person in the state who thinks Gov. Dannel Malloy’s plan for tolls and gas taxes makes sense? Probably. But let me try once again to overcome the usual objections and explain why Malloy’s plan is fair and necessary.
Tolls are taxes: No, tolls are users fees. Train fares aren’t taxes, are they? If you don’t want to pay a few pennies a gallon more for gasoline, don’t drive. Join us on the train and pay the highest commuter rail fares in the US. There is no free ride.
I already pay enough taxes: That may be your perception. But in 1997 when legislators cut the sky-high gas taxes by 14 cents, why didn’t they tell us that would lose us $3.7 billion in needed transportation funding? The bill has come due.
But I also pay a property tax on my car: Sure, but it doesn’t go to fixing the roads. That’s a town / city tax. If you don’t like it, tell City Hall.
We already have the highest gasoline taxes: Not so anymore. Connecticut’s 39 cents per gallon tax is third highest in the Northeast, trailing Pennsylvania (59 cents) and New York (44 cents) and just ahead of New Jersey (37 cents).
The roads should be free: And just where in the Constitution does it say that? This isn’t the pioneer West: we’re talking about I-95 and the parkways! Driving is not like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Think of the new paradigm as an a la carte restaurant where you pay for what you eat.
Tolls aren’t safe: Another myth since the days of the “fiery truck crash” in Milford in 1983. Tolls don’t require barriers or booths anymore. They’re electronic gantries over the highway reading your EZPass or license plate without slowing down.
Tolls divert traffic to local roads: Maybe, for the first week. Then people will decide if they want to waste time in traffic or pay a few cents to get where they’re going.
If we raise the gas tax, why do we need tolls?: Because raising the gasoline tax can be done in weeks. But tolls will take 2-4 years to install and by then upwards of half of all cars will be electric, paying no gas tax. Why should a Tesla driver get a free ride?
OK, but just toll someone else: Sure, something like 34% of all traffic in Connecticut is from out-of-state. But building tolls just at our borders is unconstitutional (and unfair). We can offer a discount to CT residents, but can’t charge those driving through our state while we pay nothing.
Malloy stole money from transportation: True, money has been regularly “reapportioned” from the Special Transportation Fund for years, by Govs. John Rowland and Jodi Rell as well as Malloy. You’ll get the chance to stop that in November when there’s a referendum question on the ballot for a “lock box” on the STF.
The real problem is state employee union contracts: That may be so, but the SEBAC contracts were just renegotiated and approved by the legislature, so how do we undo that before the STF goes belly-up next year?
I’ve had enough! I’m leaving the state: Sorry to see you go. But when you say goodbye, remember you’ll have to pay tolls to NY, MA or RI on your way out.
Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media. Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien Representative Town Meeting.