With Connecticut’s long-term plan for infrastructure maintenance unclear, businesses will look elsewhere to invest.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey might have folded a few years ago, but don’t worry Connecticut, there’s a new circus in town. It’s called CT2030. With all of the changes the transportation plan has undergone since Gov. Ned Lamont first unveiled it last November, the only reasonable take away is that the “2030” part of it meant 2,030 different versions.

While the governor’s actions from the past few months certainly resemble “The Greatest Show on Earth,” unfortunately, this is no laughing matter. Said bluntly, Connecticut’s failure to adopt tolls statewide is a serious blow to our economic future.

Talk to anyone who studies it for a living – and I did; more on that in a moment – and they will tell you that infrastructure is the key to unlocking economic growth. Cities and states that have top quality infrastructure will be rewarded handsomely in the form of business investment. It’s the magic formula: companies bring jobs, jobs create income, and income leads to spending.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that several of the states that rank as being the most business friendly are the same ones that get high marks for infrastructure. So, while Texas spends $4.75 billion annually to maintain its roadways, Connecticut continues to dance and juggle its way around a viable and sustainable plan to fund infrastructure over the long-term.

Gov. Lamont gave us a glimmer of hope with his first iteration of CT2030, which called for the implementation of electronic tolls, yet his flip-flopping act that followed would make even the most renowned trapeze artist jealous. It’s almost as if the administration was unprepared for how politically unpopular tolls were going to be, and decided to retreat from the fight, rather than stand its ground.

Let’s go back to Texas for a minute. I spoke with David Perkins, President and CEO of the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association (TACA), to find out how the Lone Star State has been able to get Texans to support infrastructure funding (83 percent of voters approved the passage of Proposition 7 in 2015, which authorized a constitutional amendment for transportation funding) and to get his thoughts on tolling.

In the mid-2000s, the effort began in earnest to push for tolling in Texas because of the realization that current funding mechanisms just weren’t going to cut it any longer. And as expected, the people revolted. However, to build support, the Texas legislation did something much differently than the Lamont administration. Rather than disappear, it stepped up to the plate to come up with two different funding mechanisms in addition to tolls (Proposition 1 and Proposition 7), which helped ease some of the resentment over tolling.

“From a policy standpoint, tolling needs to be an option [in infrastructure funding],” Perkins said. “It needs to be a component. It’s a big tool in the toolbox with other tools available to leverage. But there has been pushback, and there continue to be some growing pains over tolls especially as the funds from Proposition 1 and Proposition 7 come into play. It has to be a combination of tools to make this work effectively in order for the general public to get on board.”

Even with such strong opposition over tolls, the Texas legislature found a way to make the public more receptive to them. Unlike the Lamont administration, Texas refused to let politics stand in the way of passing resolutions to fund infrastructure. So, it’s no coincidence that as Texas continues to increase the amount it spends on its highways and roads, its labor force follows suit, growing at the equivalent of nearly 1,000 new jobs a day in 2019. (For comparison, Connecticut added a total of just 3,600 jobs all of last year!)

While the Lamont administration figures out the next ball to juggle on infrastructure, maybe it ought to take a look at what others states are doing, especially as 5G rolls out across the nation. There’s just no clowning around about this: the ways things currently stand, we are in no position to compete for business investment and tolls are a critical funding source to help shore up Connecticut’s economic future.

Matthew Chudoba is a Norwalk-based strategic communications professional. 

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19 Comments

  1. The state of Connecticut Government’s failure to reign in wasteful spending, and embrace fiscal responsibility is an “Economic Failure”.
    I grow weary of bias politicians, paid consultants and selfish union leaders telling residents and taxpayers what is right for our state. What is right for our state, is to map a path to fiscal responsibility based on the “truth” and not the wants and misinformation being paraded by special interests.

  2. A circus analogy is cute, but “Connecticut’s failure to adopt tolls statewide is a serious blow to our economic future.” reflects toll advocate myopia. More accurate is: “Connecticut’s failure to end the mis-use of our STF and to restructure spending is a serious blow to our economic future.” Myopic focus on regressive driving taxes/tolls, and ignoring widespread public opposition led to failure.

    The claim “the administration…decided to retreat from the fight, rather than stand its ground.” is false. They and their allies did fight. Lamont used media access as Gov and was vocal for months. His PR people did, too. Adding Max Reiss bought toll advocacy to a loud, frequent, and new rhetorical low. A construction companies and unions group wasted $1 million or more on scary pro-toll saturation advertising and a Rhode Island registered Ct 2030 billboard truck. Chudoda’s claim is a carny barker’s snake oil sales pitch. They did fight. They lost. Citizen activists won.

  3. Matt. Let’s compare Texas to CT. Income tax rate in TX 0. Income tax rate in ST 3-6.99%. Sales tax rate. TX 6.25. CT 6.35. CT vehicle property tax. 70% of cars value multiple by mill rate. TX 0. CT unfunded pension rank 48. TX ranks 15. CT property home tax 2.07%. TX 0. has tax in TX 20. ST 25, plus a whole sale tax. That t2nd gas tax does not exist in TX. Corporate tax rate in ST 7.5% at net income. TX 1% for gross over 1 million. TX since 2005 they gained 4.8 million people from other states. ST is 3rd in nation for out migration. What you pro tolls folks don’t get. It’s never about tolls or transportation funding. It’s about the continuing of just raising taxes and user fees. Never trying once to help. The CT taxpayers. Why not offer any of the above taxes to be lowered for CT residents so that the installation of tolls was revenue neutral for us while going after those nasty out of staters.

    1. How true, they think we are suckers and blindly reach into our pockets to give them what they want, with no accounting for where our money is going or little or no return on our investment!
      Well, we the people say enough is enough! there will be accounting this November!

    1. How do you have “OVERLY PARTISAN POLITICS” when the house and the senate are both ruled by a SUPER MAJORITY along with a democrat governor???

  4. All of this may be true, but unlike us, Texas taxpayers don’t already pay a sky-high gas tax, they won’t be paying a 0.5% FMLA tax, and they don’t have any state income tax. So there’s a little bit of a difference here.

    1. Don’t you remember when just last year 15 min wage and flma was going to drive the workforce. I haven’t seen that press conference get bragging how that brought major business and economic gain. Have yet to see the Crane in the air in any major CT city. So much for that investment

  5. The biggest concern for most larger businesses is our overall cost of living is very high compared to other places that also have well educated workforces. Ultimately they know they will have to pay higher taxes and pay their employees more. For example, Texas ranks about 18 in all states on cost of living and value – whereas Connecticut ranks 41. We would be far worse if it was not for depressed real estate prices, especially in Fairfield county where so many houses are for sale it is frightening.

    Does infrastructure have a role? Yes it does, especially in choke points. However, politicians seem to believe that infrastructure is magic bullet to fix Connecticuts economy, they are wrong. For that you need lower taxation and a lower cost of living in order to become competitive again. However regional competitiveness means far less because technology overcomes geography.

  6. If you build it, they will come.
    Another believer in the idea that if CT would only improve infrastructure, the businesses which have been staying away would change their minds.
    The reasons they’re staying away include a lot more than aging infrastructure (and state government policies). Adding an expense like tolls isn’t a positive for the state. I’m not sure whether the tolls would reduce interest more than the improved infrastructure would increase it.

    1. Lamont has claimed business leaders he talks with will bring their companies to Ct if our transportation issues are solved. Never once has he named those businesses. I want him to produce legally binding, signed letters of intent from those business leaders he claims will come. Let see those, Ned.

      1. Bravo to that reply! You have hit the real reason why CT Citizens are against the tolls. Our democratic leaders can not be trusted with anything they say is the truth, they continue to lie to us to further their own agenda! They cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

      2. Thank you, Domenic. Last fall when Lamont returned to work from his vacation I was at the capitol door to welcome him back on behalf of the NoTolls citizen action movement. He stopped to talk and I asked him a question he didn’t like. When I get a chance again, I’ll ask him about letters of intent. I’ve suggested that question to some of the capitol reporters I’ve gotten to know during the tolls struggle. No one I know of has asked him. 🙁

      3. The only “development” in Hartford is heavily subsidized by an array of state agencies that aren’t accountable. And the if they economy retracts a little bit, all the developers will default and leave the state on the hook.

        Lamont needs to have 5,000 lay-off notices ready for the day after SEBAC expires. And then see how “negotiations” go.

  7. Get back to us when CT matches Texas on income and gas taxes. Texas has no income tax and a $0.05 per gallon lower excise tax on gas and no fuel gross receipts tax. Since 2003, many toll roads in Texas are public – private partnerships, an idea never considered in CT. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottbeyer/2017/06/30/texas-toll-roads-a-big-step-towards-open-markets-for-transportation/#28d5612a1e9d) Texas toll revenue accounts for 1% of total transportation funding, nowhere near the 40% estimated in the ill-conceived CT plan. (https://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/fin/funding-sources.pdf) We should look to Texas as a model for economic success. Doubtful anyone in Hartford would ever consider that!

  8. Most people that I have spoken with and who oppose tolls also agree that infrastructure is very important but do not trust the current administration and legislature to actually spend that toll money on infrastructure. And, I don’t think that there is a lockbox or other regulation that could keep this money out of the hands of the Democratic legislature that they would apply elsewhere.

    I think perhaps if we witnessed some real attempt to cut expenses out of the fattened bureaucracy and some accountability, we would have more confidence that these lawmakers could be trusted.

  9. The author represents interest groups who directly benefit from toll revenue. The missed opportunity here is the failure to recognize why the legislation did not pass – the private sector has had enough. Large businesses consider employee quality of life as a major factor in any relocation decision – our hostile tax and regulatory environment eliminates CT from consideration. CT’s only resource is its population. For years it was a successful bedroom community – citizens made their income in NY and Boston yet raised their families and conducted lucrative lives in CT. The toxic combination of unions and politicians began an unrelenting, self enrichment campaign at the expense and abuse of the private sector. It no longer makes sense to live or do business in CT. Hemingway explained the bankruptcy process as “gradually, then suddenly.” This is where CT finds itself today.

  10. FYI Texas has no state income tax. Compare with CT…. I’ll trade truck only tolls for no income tax! Next time chose a state with CT’s high taxes, and dishonest, incompetent government to compare. No one is buying what you are selling. I agree that infrastructure funding is essential, so cut non essential spending. CT has plenty of money, they just don’t want to make choices as to who’s pork gets cut.

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