A spirited public debate is underway over whether Connecticut should re-institute highway tolls as a means of funding much-needed improvements to our aging transportation infrastructure. Good people on both sides of the issue are passionate about their position and rightfully so. That is how our democracy works best.

There seems to be little disagreement that the state must upgrade our transportation system. The question is, how to pay for it. More bonding or tolls? Plans call for toll gantries along Interstates 95, 91 and 84. I-395 would be exempt.

Research indicates that electronic toll systems, operational in all our surrounding states and, nationally, in all but 15 states, provide a cost-effective and safe method for upgrading and maintaining transportation systems. If tolls are installed in Connecticut, they are expected to raise $800 million annually, a healthy chunk, with approximately 40 percent coming from out-of-state vehicles passing through.

Tolls is a pay-as-you-go system. Bonding, on the other hand, would pass the buck for improvements on to our children and grandchildren.

Earlier this year, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut’s legislative affairs committee developed a comprehensive set of legislative goals for this year’s General Assembly session, including support for a state-of-the-art toll system with carve-outs for Connecticut residents. This takes into account the fact that we have a state constitutional transportation lockbox to ensure that money raised on the highways will be used to keep them in tip-top shape.

Reasonable people agree that we must do something about our roadways. For some time it has been abundantly clear to anyone who has been stuck in traffic for hours on I-95 that improvements are needed to keep the traffic flowing. Additionally, business owners who depend on the timely delivery of materials to keep them in operation and their employees on the job, also can speak to the importance of a well-functioning transportation system.

The argument for using tolls to invest in a modern, well-maintained transportation system can be boiled down to two words: commerce and tourism. Highway congestion and roads in need of repair are impediments to a healthy economy. If visitors, employees or delivery vehicles are sitting for hours in highway traffic, they are not likely to return to the state, or expand or grow their companies.

Each year the chamber looks seriously at legislative measures that are designed to improve the business climate and benefit the public. After much consideration, we concluded that the need for a highway toll system with 21st century technology, coupled with the transportation lockbox and carve-outs for Connecticut residents, would well serve our state far into the future.

Tony Sheridan is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and chairman of the Connecticut Airport Authority Board of Directors.

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26 Comments

  1. It’s not the roads that make CT a “move from” not a “move to” state it’s the wholesale fiscal mismanagement in Hartford.

    If CT had the best roads in the nation, the state is still such a business unfriendly state that there would still be a net outflow of people leaving for better places to live and raise a family.

  2. Over and over again we make the point – Connecticut does NOT a revenue problem. It has a spending problem.

    Today Connecticut residents face some of the most onerous taxes in the nation but there’s no fiscally responsible way to bring rates down since Connecticut’s debt burden is out of control and the tax liability is already punishing compared to the rest of the country.

    Connecticut was just ranked as the fifth most expensive state to live in yet it also has a credit rating ranked the third worst in the country, behind New Jersey and Illinois. In a recent Tax Foundation study, Connecticut was ranked 47th in business-friendly states.

    Connecticut has the fourth highest tax burden in the nation, just behind New York, California and New Jersey and Connecticut leads the country in income tax collection at $2,279 per person. Another Tax Foundation study found Connecticut’s property tax collections were the overall highest in the nation. As of January 2019 our tax on gasoline is the 7th highest in the nation. As a bonus – our state pensions are one of the worst funded in the nation, at an average of $10,300 owed per citizen.

    All of this points to one question – the money is ALREADY there to fix our infrastructure – but why hasn’t it been used for such purposes? Quite simply it is a failure of leadership. Tolls are not the answer, a change in management is.

  3. Greedy politicians vs. the people on these tolls. Nobody wants them. The inflation will destroy our economy. The cost of everything but our income will go up once again. Any IT or service job costs go up, your delivery costs go up which means the cost of everything goes up. So not do we just have to deal with gas taxes, and tolls, but everything we use the gas to get to will be more expensive. Meanwhile wages are stagnant and cost of living increases. Owning a car that is needed for things like work is now a luxury.

    1. So, as long as the taxes don’t affect you, you feel obliged to advocate stealing from others. That’s right out of the leftist redistributionist playbook advocated by public employee unions and their Democrat allies. It will do nothing to solve CT’s fiscal woes and they will back again in a few years to raise taxes on the middle class. The problem is there is no limiting principle to this fascism whose goal is control of the populace through heavy taxation and organized vote buying.

  4. Oh Yes, We need to “keep CT’s economy rolling”. It is really chugging along at a blinding pace, growth is everywhere. The first step is recognizing that there is a problem. CT economy is not doing that well. Second step is accepting the reality, and the reality is that there is a Dem Governor, and Dems control both the house and the senate, and the lockbox has not been invented that cannot be pilfered, raided or otherwise drained without fixing a single pothole under these conditions.

  5. In case you haven’t noticed, our state is mired in a fiscal mess while states around us recovered from the last recession. Taxpayers are leaving, businesses are reluctant to come here, and we are being systematically taxed and spent into oblivion. Perhaps we would be more receptive to tolls if we knew that hundreds of millions of previous dollars earmarked for transportation projects never found their way to or were diverted from the transportation fund into the general fund.

    Connecticut is rolling on to an early fiscal grave.

  6. Tolls are NOT the answer!! Just another tax on an already overtaxed population. On top of this you want tax sugary drinks, create a mandatory payroll tax for paid family leave, raise bottle deposits and expand the list of taxable items. When is enough, enough? Cut spending and expenses!!!

    1. We invite you to propose spending reductions that fall outside of the constraints of the state’s existing contractual obligations (e.g., unfunded liabilities, SEBAC agreement).

      1. Let’s start with why we had to bail out Hartford to the tune of $550 million? Let’s not repeat that mistake with another “city.”
        CT Mirror reported that between 2006 and 2014 $1.3 million was diverted from gas tax revenue to the General Fund. Why? How much has been diverted since 2015?
        When I ran my stores and was told to cut expenses by home office it happened. I’d love to get a look at the day to day in Hartford and start cutting but that’s not happening for me and we both know it. All I know and was very successful at is you have to create that mindset and culture.
        Tax and spend in Hartford is our culture and it is killing our state pure and simple.
        Our car registration is now $100 for two years of which $80 is the registration plus two $10 “fees.” One for state parks and another for clean air. But wait , the Courant just reported our air quality is terrible.
        Where does all this money go to. We’re being taxed to death. Let’s have some more reporting on that…

      2. Beating up on a commentator is not constructive. All input is important. Many commentators have offered solutions (several on this thread..Mr Verdad). Attacking a commentator is not a way to get citizens who are concerned with our states financial crisis to sign up and donate to your cause. Listen, don’t attack. Cutting spending is a viable part of the solution.

      3. It is the elected legislators job to fix the fiscal situation, not ours CT Mirror. Here’s a suggestion that will go nowhere – ban overtime for state employees. Period. In 2017, that amounted to $264,359,763.25 and given its multiplying effect on pensions, far more than that.

        There – just saved the state 1/4 billion.

      4. How about a 5% reduction from every dept in the state we have heard about billions of tax increases but not one cent of cuts.. why?

      5. We invite you to propose spending reductions that fall outside of the constraints of the state’s existing contractual obligations (e.g., unfunded liabilities, SEBAC agreement).

      6. If he is proposing a 5% cut on non mandatory spending, a significant amount of the Connecticut populace would rejoice. Telling however is your reporting today that the proposed budget in committee is being raised.
        Tax and spend, tax and spend on an already overtaxed population! That is the culture of our state…

      7. We can start with the busway to nowhere .It does not make a profit so get stop the buses and just oepn it up as road .It may finally get some use. Any bus line that does not make a profit. Take it out of service. Any program that is not part of teh fixed costs .Requires a 20% cut .Stop all non essential bonding and grants .No more new playground, schools and things like that. Find services like eldery care that can go nonprofit or private. Sell off assets the state owns so we don’t have to pay for it .No more bailouts for cities . and I’ll say it again to you. Hire lawyers to fight in court that the SBEAC is not as iron clad as you all say it is .Its not .It may take years but the 5-4 conservative majority on our nations supreme court may say otherwise. Why not try that .It may take 5 years to get it there but its worth a shot.

  7. The idea that highway tolls (even if the collected funds were used for their intended purposes – a major assumption) would have a significant boost for CT’s decade long stagnant economy faced with repeated billion dollar Budget deficits is just “fanciful” with no basis in accepted economic analysis. CT’s economics ills are so deep and pervasive that introducing tolls might well go unnoticed when future economic data is collected.

  8. What this “genius” failed to acknowledge is that CT already has the 7th highest gasoline taxes in the country–43.6 cents per gallon. If it managed these funds properly it wouldn’t be back looking for more ways to stick it to state residents. CT voters are like frogs in a pot of boiling water. They’ve been there so long and become accustomed to the heat that they think it’s normal and lack the will to leap out.. Well, some have managed to make it out and leap to other states. Perhaps the last public employee can turn the lights when they do so.

  9. I just read an article in the Hartford Courant that said the infrastructure projections that were being used to justify installing tolls were inflated, and that the federal government was going to bear 80 percent of the cost of the infrastructure upgrades. Despite this, Lamont is still making the case for tolls.
    Tolls are a regressive tax that harm our poorest citizens the most.

  10. Both the Gov and this viewpoint some how connect toll money with keeping the traffic flowing with improvements to the highways. This could not be furtherer from the truth, all the delays and known bottlenecks will still be here, only you will be paying to sit in traffic because they can’t fix and won’t fix those problems.

  11. This reasonable taxpayer demands a reasonable projection of highway improvements anticipated and a reasonable estimate of costs. I then would ask, reasonably, what Special Transportation revenues are anticipated and what the shortfall totals in today’s real dollars. But there is no reasonable proponent of tolls who will provide this information. This taxpayer frequently travels to Washington DC where I avoid the tolled highways at every chance and have noticed congestion tolling has done nothing to alleviate the parking lots on the highways surrounding DC.

  12. yankfan8370-Please provide a source for your figures. From what I remember, the cost of the “bailout” of Hartford was $50 million, not over 1/2 billion. While making things up to fit your narrative is consistent with what happens on a daily basis in this federal admin, it is unproductive for this platform. CT has a spending problem and it will take sacrifice by all to fix this situation. It is estimated that 40% of the State’s workforce will be eligible to retire by mid-2022 so the unfunded pension obligations are going to exasperated. There needs to be a funding source to address the State’s aging infrastructure and tolls can be that source…as long as those monies are not swept into the general fund.

  13. Help us in CT: The busway, like all methods of mass transportation are not made to be a revenue source. These modes of transportation are meant to ease congestion, reduce emissions, and help those who don’t, or can’t drive. The whole idea of Transit Oriented Development is to allow people to not have to own a vehicle. I hope that mass transit continues to grow in CT, we are way behind our metropolitan neighbors. (By the way, it costs CT approximately$23 million/year to operate the Busway…about $4/rider/year)! You also must realize that occasionally, new schools, playgrounds and parks do need to be built. Unfortunately, many older CT residents feel that once their children have grown and moved on they should no longer have to improve amenities for today’s youth. Lastly, it appears that you would like CT to stop paying pensions to those who have worked, under contract(s), to lock in those benefits. It is a contract. Don’t blame those that have worked their whole life to earn these pensions…blame the politicians who have failed to adequately fund these obligations for the past 40+ years. Any lawsuits trying to break this legally-binding contracts would get thrown out way before reaching the SCOTUS.

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