Half truths and obfuscation on tolls
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.
CTViewpoints welcomes rebuttal or opposing views to this and all its commentaries. Read our guidelines and submit your commentary here.