Authors Gail Berritt and Sean Goldrick closed their pointed criticism of Toni Boucher with this: “Cut through the obfuscation, and the choice is simple.” That’s a great idea! Let’s cut through your obfuscation, half truths, and misleading claims.

These two wealthy “Gold Coast” Connecticut residents advocate Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed statewide electronic driving TAX system (a/k/a “tolls”) that may cost them some coffee money, but will cost most Connecticut drivers far more. Make no mistake, driving TAXES are regressive taxes that hurt low- and middle-income people more than high income people.

In their criticism of borrowing, they ignore clear facts. No, it’s not a binary choice between borrowing and electronic driving TAXES. What these authors advocate will force Connecticut drivers to pay endlessly increasing driving TAXES for decades to come. Once installed, tolls rarely are removed or reduced. Future generations will pay. The authors complained about borrowing, yet borrowing is included in Lamont’s first and current driving TAX plans. They ignored that.

“Without a major infusion of new revenues, we will soon be unable to fund needed repairs of our bridges and roads, let alone improve them.”

This is a repeat of the frequent false talking point that a new revenue source is needed for the Special Transportation Fund (STF.) The STF has been misused for years and this year Lamont unilaterally chose to reverse the 2017 bi-partisan budget agreement’s plan for directing vehicle sales tax dollars to the STF. That needs to be completely, not partially reinstated.

Beginning in the mid-1980s personnel, benefit, and pension expenses for the Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles  and Public Safety (State Police) have been shifted into the STF. Just shifting them out from where they don’t belong would save the STF during the current two year budget period close to the $1 billion that Lamont wants from highway driving TAXES. There is NOT a need for a new revenue source.

With a repeat of the tiresome talking point of “40 percent will come from out of state drivers” the authors display their willingness to distort and mislead. The 40 percent figure contradicts the 25 percent figure from the taxpayer-funded study done by CDM Smith for the Connecticut DOT. Lamont and other driving TAX advocates have claimed it is “50 percent”, “over 50 percent”, or “40 percent” in their failed attempts to convince state citizens and many legislators. Regardless of what the percentage will be, the bulk will come from Connecticut citizens if this bad idea is implemented.

The authors’ references to other states are misleading half truths. Yes, SOME states have highway driving taxes on SOME of their roads. No state in the USA, let along New England, or the East Coast has anything close to the proposal for Connecticut. None! The proposals for Connecticut have been for 112 TAX gantries, 82, 53, “no more than 50,” and who knows what’s next. No state has a gantry density on their highways or within their geography as high as proposed for Connecticut. Making false, half true, or misleading comparisons with other states is dishonest. 

The authors refer to a Reason Foundation report about our DOT’s administrative costs as “absurd,” “right wing,” and “roundly debunked” while offering zero supporting facts for those claims. If those accusations are true, why did Lamont publicly say his DOT commissioner is taking a hard look at DOT’s administrative costs?

Who has “roundly debunked” the report? There is a 2018 DOT document and a 2018 letter to the Reason Foundation from former DOT Commissioner Jim Redeker expressing concerns about the report’s points regarding DOT administrative costs. The Reason Foundation’s Project director provided a response to Redecker. These documents are public records the authors are unlikely to have obtained and read. Much of the excessively high DOT admin costs stem from the shift of pension, benefit, and personnel expenses into the STF, mentioned above.

How ironic is it the authors promote a regressive driving TAX plan that hurts low and middle income people more than wealthy people and they are residents of SW Connecticut’s “Gold Coast.” Isn’t one of them a high end attorney who lives and works in the same town? How much of that work commute would be on tax gantry laden highways? The other author is a long time Lamont backer living in Lamont’s home town and likely to rarely encounter the proposed tax gantries.

For both of these individuals whatever driving tax amounts they may pay are unlikely to impact their incomes anywhere close to how they would impact average non-Gold Coast Connecticut citizens.

As they suggested, cutting through myths and obfuscation is valuable. That certainly applies to what they wrote in their criticism of Ms. Boucher and their advocacy of putting regressive electronic driving TAXES on our highways. 

Neil Tolhurst lives in New Hartford.

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11 Comments

  1. Great editorial! Let the Truth be Told. Concerned Residents and News Media must become laser focused on debunking the lies and misinformation that flows from Connecticut’s Political Elite Class. Our financial survival depends on it.

  2. It remains a trust issue. Period. Particularly when one carefully examines the proposed structure to manage the toll system.

  3. It is a trust issue and its also the issue of it being almost every highway. Like it is said above. States do have tolls but on 1 or 2 highways and bridge’s. Not all over as CT is proposing. If Ned and all these gold coast folks want these tolls. Just toll I95 and the merrit pkwy. Leave out 84,91. Theses 2 highways have no tolls in other states. Let the gold coast pay for it. They have money.

  4. Ironic name for this commenter – Neil “TollsHurt.” But what is most objectionable is his personal attacks on the pro-toll authors, based on where they live. Sounds like the commenter’s principal objection is to the number roads and gantries, something to negotiate

    1. Sorry, Sage, that’s not my name. Lots of people have made the same word play this year. What’s more ironic is in ten years of activism on this issue, this is the first year the last name word play has been happening.

      Hopefully, what you see as a personal attack from me you also see in the Viewpoint article I responded to. The one that very pointedly criticized Toni Boucher.

      The number of roads & gantries is just one reason the proposal is a bad idea. My article describes others and I’ll add that driving tax systems are highly inefficient with huge initial and on-going overhead costs, the need for a new bureaucracy, contracting with private vendors, an underground statewide fiber optic system, a central processing center, multiple customer service centers, collection problems, and other revenue absorbing expenses. Look up HB 7202, Section 2 (c) and (d) for some eye opening expense details. Also, look at the expense tables in the Nov. 2018 CDM Smith study report and notice they are all in 2016 $$, three years old already.

  5. Connecticut has four cities, Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, and Bridgeport, in the top 30 in the nation for zero-car households. In seven neighborhoods in Hartford, more than 40 percent of the households have no cars. Almost two-thirds of Hartford’s workforce, many of them using bus transit, work outside of Hartford.

    During the 2018 transportation budget crisis, the state Department of Transportation threatened to cut funds from the regional transit districts while raising bus and rail fares across the state. Raising transit and rail costs while cutting service is a terrible strategy for getting Connecticut residents to work.

    Cars are not an option for many of our state’s low-income residents, and cutting their connection to jobs is not fiscally sound. Employers need workers, and transit gets them where they need to go. A robust multi-modal transportation system is egalitarian and provides key jobs access for both our urban professionals and the rest of the state’s workers.

    A transportation system that requires car ownership prevents many workers and families from building family savings and following the American dream.

    A highway toll is a reasonable user fee that needs to be implemented to invest in our state’s future.
    https://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-teron-tolls-0304-20190304-xcvtmjlxqfhnvcxf6srkqzc5q4-story.html

    1. Hi Yanil, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

    2. According to the written legal opinion from the Federal judge in the R.I. trucks-only case, “It is not a toll, it is not a user fee, it is a tax.” Sorry, Yanil, I believe that Federal judge’s legal opinion. It’s a tax.

      The judge’s opinion also fits with this contradiction. Lamont and other driving tax advocates openly say they want these new highway driving taxes so all or some of the money can be used for trains and buses. They also say it’s a user fee for driving on the highways. That sets off my skeptic alert system’s alarm bell. They are not being honest when they claim “highway user fee.” It is not a user fee.

      If they are so fond of user fees and if user fees are such a good thing, why did they create and implement the Passport to Parks tax on everyone’s vehicle registrations? What had been a pure user fee to park vehicles at state parks was completely changed to a broad based tax on every vehicle owner regardless of their use of a state park or not.

      1. Just to add to your argument. I don’t know if it happened. But there were articles out there that the general assembly was already looking into diverting those funds to the general funds only after 2 years of implementing the policy. Which shows exactly why we can’t trust our general assembly with tolls. They will steal it for some other cause that comes up or per usual, find a way to give to benefit and pensions.

      2. Yes, there was a big diversion from the PtP tax fund to the general fund. It was reversed nearly at the last minute of the state budget negotiations. The environmentalists got that done. At the same time, the legislators and Gov did not reverse all of Lamont’s diversion of vehicle sales tax $$ intended to go to the Special Transportation Fund. So, despite the lockbox, there was a diversion of $$ intended to go into the STF and be protected by the lockbox.

    3. We subsidize their housing through section 8. The 4 cities get more money for education than other suburbs. We subsidize buses for them already. We supply food stamps. How much is enough? Our state already oversees Hartford and Waterbury. Its not the fault of the actual tax payer that these cities can’t fix themselves. Maybe trying to fix it with out all this gov’t support would do a better job. Its been 40 years and nothing has changed.

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