Bait-and-switch is bad enough, but in the case of truck-only tolling, Gov. Ned Lamont isn’t even pretending: he’s telling us right out that he plans to make the switch. Shame on us if we fall for this scam.
Lamont ran on a platform of truck-only tolling. His position changed soon after he took office, when he announced in an op-ed that “the truck-only option provides too little revenue, too slowly and too piecemeal to make a meaningful difference.” From that point until late last month, Lamont dedicated the full power and prestige of his office to the imposition of tolls on all drivers. He said he was betting his governorship on the issue, yet he couldn’t even get a vote on tolls from his Democrat legislature.
So the governor has returned —nonsensically– to truck-only tolling, which he quite correctly rejected in February as a money-losing invitation to litigation. (If the state puts up tolls to charge just trucks, then the courts say that we can’t use them for that, do you think they’ll take down the gantries?)
Let’s be clear about what Lamont wants. In discussing his new plan, he has repeatedly stated that he would ‘start with’ truck-only tolling, that it’s a ‘building block.’ He knows how easy it will be to expand tolling once the gantries are in place — given our state government’s thirst for revenue, it’s inevitable.
Truck-only tolling is a dangerous proposal, for the more gullible among us might actually believe they’re off the hook, and that someone else will be paying. The governor is pressing hard, and he’ll get his way unless the people press back.
If you’re for this tax because you think it will go away, don’t kid yourself. The governor doesn’t expect that, as he’s admitted by calling it a start. Big-government Democrats want a new revenue source, and this one can be sold as a user fee, just as the income tax was sold as a fairer and more stable tax. (Funny how they keep finding reasons why new taxes will be better, yet they never get rid of the old, bad ones.)
Reassurances by toll advocates are already proving false. When Lamont announced his return to truck-only tolls, he promised town hall meetings on the subject throughout the state. Now he’s asking for a vote on the proposal in less than two weeks — and not one public discussion on the subject has been scheduled. Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz suggested addressing bait-and-switch concerns through a constitutional amendment to prohibit tolling of passenger vehicles (a ridiculous subject to address in the constitution, but we’ll leave that aside). At the earliest, such an amendment could not take effect until nearly a year after the toll vote the governor is pushing.
Like the state income tax, the people are against tolls by instinct, and once again the people are right. Like the state income tax, the powers the be—labor leaders, big-spending politicians, business bureaucrats, public policy professionals, know-it-all columnists—assure us that it’s in our interest, if we only understood.
I don’t believe the elites have power because of secret meetings at Davos. An attitude has spread from the top down that big government is good for us, because it means that experts run everything—you don’t have messy individuals making unpredictable decisions for themselves and their families. It’s tough for the average person (and in that I include state legislators, who can’t be called an over credentialed crowd) not to nod along in assent when a roomful of our self-proclaimed betters, with their prestigious schooling and bespoke suits, shares with us what everyone thinks who thinks they’re in the know.
Democrat legislators would like to pass tolls. It would get the governor off their backs, make both the union bosses and the establishment happy, and put an uncomfortable issue behind them. All that stops them is next year’s election.
Whether we have tolls on everyone, everywhere and forever in Connecticut depends on what we the people do now, before a single toll goes up. We must make clear to our legislators what is clear to us: truck tolling makes no sense, unless the goal is tolls on everyone. And if our motto is ‘vote for tolls’—of any sort—‘and lose at the polls,’ we must be prepared to mount the organized effort required to make that phrase stick.
There are politicians who will always want the government to have more money and power. For the sake of our state and our families, they must be stopped on tolls over the next few days, then replaced at the next election. If you agree, please contact your legislators now—then hold them responsible for what they do.
Joe Markley is a former State Senator from Southington.