Democratic leaders were convinced they would finally bring tolls to Connecticut. They staked their reputation on it.  After all, they have total control of the process and the votes. The governor, the speaker of the house and president of the senate were certain that tolls would pass by June 5.  Yet, the end of the session came without passing the bill.

Undeterred, the governor pledged to convene a special session and make tolls a reality.  All it would take was a bit of arm twisting, right? Not quite…

Who says you can’t fight city hall?

Toni Boucher

An anti-toll grassroots movement has emerged and is winning!   Stamford businessman, Patrick Sasser, started “No Tolls CT.”  Patrick believes that tolls would add to the cost of living, reduce disposable income and make it even harder to do business.  He, and an unlikely ally, Democrat Neil Northfield, staged protests throughout the state and at the Capitol, amassing 100,000 signatures on their anti-toll petition.

Town councils passed anti-toll resolutions and Republican legislators conducted toll forums to inform the public.  These efforts have had an impact. Those who ran on a pro-toll platform are being confronted by angry constituents. The administration even offered to raise money to help with the reelection of Democratic legislators who are reluctant to vote for tolls.

Why are tolls in Connecticut a bad idea?

There is consensus that more funding should be directed to transportation, but not from taxes or tolls.  We already have too many taxes.  Connecticut is different from states with tolls.  It has a host of taxes they do not have. Connecticut has a car property tax assessed every year in addition to a car sales tax; an 8 percent petroleum tax on top of a high excise tax on every gallon of gasoline; and hundreds more on products and services.

Connecticut’s toll and congestion pricing taxes are regressive and hit lower income workers most.  Unlike top executives, hourly workers can’t choose their arrival time; therefore, tolls would take a big bite out of their wages (I-66 in Virginia congestion pricing reached $46.75 on one 10-mile trip).

One resident writes, “I just finished another year of teaching, and still have trouble paying all the bills in Fairfield County.  I heard that if the “tolls” measure passes…it will cost me $10 each time I visit my Mom… That is deplorable — Lamont is taking away our freedom to travel and visit family and friends… He ( the Governor) will make it financially impossible for us to travel throughout the state.”

Consider:

  • Originally tolls were for trucks only, now they’re planned for all vehicles and highways
  • Toll plan adds more gantries (50-80) than other states
  • Traffic would divert, adding to congestion and wear and tear of local roadways
  • 70 percent of tolls will be paid by Connecticut residents- a $500 million tax increase
  • 30 percent of out-of-state toll charges go unpaid, raising toll costs
  • Tolls revenues are overestimated and construction (by 50 percent) and transaction processing costs are underestimated (1 cent versus the real costs of 5-8 cents per transaction)
  • CT DOT administration costs are up to nine times the national average per mile, overhead expenses are outstripping revenues by 5 to 1.
  • Connecticut receives more federal funds than states with tolls, it could lose this funding with tolls
  • Lack of trust in the lockbox, the budget diverts $729 million by 2024 in car sales taxes designated for the Special Transportation Fund into the general fund
  • A new state commission would have sole discretion over toll rates

What is the motivation for tolls?

One thing I’ve learned is that issues such as tolls rarely stand alone.  What is the real reason for the monumental effort expended by Democrats to install tolls? It makes no sense.  Could tolls be plugging self-inflicted budget shortfalls?

There are ways to fund Connecticut’s infrastructure without tolls.  But, first it must confront the costs that are driving state agencies continually into the red.  Legislators must address the administrative and fringe benefit overhead costs that are the highest in the country.  Taxpayers cannot continue to fund platinum healthcare and pension plans that no one in the private sector or municipal union members enjoy.

They only have to look at the “Prioritize Progress” plan offered to them that does not include tolls or taxes. Instead, it puts transportation’s most essential projects at the top of the state’s bonding authority list and eliminates borrowing for pet projects to buy votes. Now that makes sense!

Toni Boucher is a Connecticut businesswoman and former state senator, state representative, state board of education member, selectman and board of education chair.

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6 Comments

  1. Toni Boucher, you lost the elections because you are out of touch. The majority of educated people in Connecticut wants the fees generated by tolls. Only a few wants to use the credit card to fund infrastructure that other can support with the FEES generated by TOLLS. #YesToTolls

  2. I can’t believe the amount of misinformation Ms. Boucher relates in this opinion piece. I did not agree with her on many things but used to respect her. This is why the general public is opposed to tolls because the facts given by the opposition are bent to fit their agenda.

    Governor Lamont did propose looking into tolls only on trucks when he was running for Governor but also prefaced it that it had to provide sufficient revenue to support transportation goals.

    There are no facts to back up Ms. Boucher’s contention that a significant amount of traffic would be diverted to other roads.

    Studies by CTDOT show that revenue from out-of-state drivers would be more than 40%, not 30%. To put that in context, that is as much as $320 million per year that Connecticut residents will not have to pay. Even if it was only half that amount, this is a significant amount of money that we cannot afford to turn our backs on.

    What proof do you have that toll revenues are overestimated and transaction costs are underestimated?

    It is my understanding that the Federal Highway Administration has informally approved the implementation of tolls in our state and indicated the levels of funding they would provide

    Your claim of CTDOT having high administration are based on a very flawed cursory analysis by a biased special interest group. CTDOT’s administration costs are high because most of its projects are bridge rehabilitation projects that carry higher engineering costs and that the department has been gearing up advanced planning for Governor Malloy’s Let’s Go CT program.

    The Republican Party’s Prioritize Progress plan calls for the state to borrow billions of dollars to fund transportation improvements but does not provide a way to pay for that debt. How is that fiscally responsible? Studies have shown that revenue from the gas tax are flat and projected to go down over the 30 years. The Republican plan skirts this issue. That means we either have to cut back on transportation improvements in the future or raise the gas tax which is mostly paid by Connecticut drivers. Why was this little fact not included in the Republican plan?

    Whether we like it or not, Connecticut needs to invest more, not less in its transportation system and tolls represent the best way to provide the money needed for that investment.

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    2. So even at 40% that puts us residents at 60% paying the user fee (TAX) also. I hope you have read some Massachusetts newspapers that show CT is the biggest offenders of not paying massDOT for use of the pike because there is no reciprocal agreement in place. So one of the states that comes through ours the most cannot pay and get away with it. I don’t agree with her on much either but on tolls. She has it right NO TOLLS.

  3. Having just driven on I-84 West (and East) in New York state — a state with tolls, I couldn’t help but notice that the New York section was in far worse shape than the Connecticut section between Danbury and Waterbury (and beyond). How can that be? Don’t tolls mean the roads will be better?

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