Having failed to convince the good people of Connecticut to allow tolls for cars, Gov. Ned Lamont and the Democrats are hoping to sucker us into believing that if we allow toll gantries on 12 bridges just for Class 8 trucks (tractor trailers and large dump trucks); we will no longer be harassed for more money. But their actual goal is simply to get these gantries in place because with just a software change, tolls can be imposed later on smaller trucks, cars, motorcycles or any moving object attached to a taxpayer. Let’s look at some of the details:
1. The Department of Transportation (DOT) will have the ability to increase the tolls on the Class 8 trucks. This is the goal of our political class: To cede power to unelected bureaucracies to do their bidding. As soon as this legislation is passed, the DOT will jack up the tolls. Lamont is estimating that these tolls will bring in $187 million to finance $19.4 billion in bonds to update and repair our infrastructure.
But the truckers will respond by avoiding the tolls, tearing up local roads in the process. Rhode Island tolls tractor trailers in a similar manor and revenue was 66% less than expected. When this happens, the bureaucrats will say “They are destroying the roads by avoiding our tolls! We have to have others pay the tolls to protect our infrastructure!” Our mendacious political class will throw up its hands and say “Golly Gee. We had no idea this was going to happen! Don’t blame us. We have to put tolls on cars!” And then they will allow the DOT to increase the tolls on cars too. Pennsylvania allowed this and the toll to cross the state has risen from $15.25 in 2008 to $61.20! The greed of the political class knows no bounds.
2. This legislation prohibits tolls on cars until the bonds are paid off, stating “the state of Connecticut shall not charge tolls for any class of vehicle other than large commercial trucks.” With this sentence, Governor Lamont and the Democrats are leading candidates for the Nobel Prize in fiction. Connecticut has $125 billion in unfulfilled pension promises. Since raising income taxes chases more people out of the state, the only option to meet this obligation is to toll cars, throw a few crumbs at our infrastructure and send the pension checks to condos in Florida and South Carolina.
3. The tolls will not be applied uniformly. Connecticut is basically two states –- Fairfield County along with the shoreline up to Old Saybrook , CT One; and the rest of the state, CT Two. CT Two views CT One as a bunch of rich people who should fund CT Two. Thus, the tolls on the bridges on Route 95 in Greenwich, Stamford and Westport will be increased while the rest of the state will see minimal if any increases. The skeptical reader has only to recall how the tolls in Connecticut were distributed before they were removed in 1985. They extended through Fairfield County and along the shoreline. There were no tolls in the Hartford, Middletown or Waterbury areas.
This makes perfect political sense. The backbone of the Democratic Party in CT Two is government workers whose main concern is economic security –- a job with a stable pension and health insurance. The Democrats in CT One are the upper-middle-class Secular Left – whose main concerns are the climate change agenda, abortion rights, LGBT rights and gun control. While they may be annoyed at paying higher tolls, this will not change their voting patterns and they will economize by sipping on a 2017 Beaujolais -a bad year.
4. There are no tolls on the Merritt Parkway. Since Class 8 trucks cannot drive on the Merritt Parkway because of the low bridges, there is no plan at this time to place tolls on this highway. However, it is possible for Class 8 trucks to jump on the Merritt before a bridge and then get off to avoid tolls. This will turn the Merritt into a parking lot. Furthermore, if tolls are imposed on cars on Route 95 –and this is inevitable – more cars will crowd onto the Merritt.
The conventional wisdom is that with President Trump on the top of the ticket, no U.S. Senate or gubernatorial race and no viable Republican Congressional candidates (at the time of this writing), Democrats will be able to increase their majorities in the House and Senate because of the coattail effect of the anti-Trump vote. Perhaps. But Governor Lamont and the savvy Democrats do not want to take any chances. They are painfully aware that in the 2019 local elections, Democratic-leaning areas in central Connecticut – Newington, Berlin, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield and Cromwell – all went Republican. In fact, the Democrats barely won in Middletown, where there is bounty on Republicans. Democratic State Senator Cathy Osten lost her reelection bid as First Selectman of Sprague (she held both posts). The issue – tolls. Even if President Trump does not do well in Connecticut, the Republicans could pick up seats as swing voters are tired of taxes and potential tolls.
Thus, Lamont is rushing to place toll gantries now. Hopefully, enough people who love Connecticut can to stop this scam. Otherwise, the exodus from our beautiful state will continue and our children will refuse to live here.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.