Boucher: Tolls would be taxing on Connecticut drivers

I must respectfully disagree with opinion writer Michael Daly’s piece advocating tolls as the answer to Connecticut’s transportation funding problems. (Get with it Connecticut, it’s time for tolls).

It is true that the horrific crash in 1983 soured Connecticut on tolls, but that is not why I have, and will continue to oppose the placement of tolls on our highways. Tolls represent another tax on Connecticut drivers who already are taxed too much.

If you own a vehicle in Connecticut, you pay the petroleum gross earnings tax and a separate gas tax on your fuel. You pay property taxes on your vehicle. You pay tax on your income and a sales tax on most everything you purchase. You even pay taxes when you die.

I believe we should not talk about installing tolls on Connecticut highways until we do something about the exorbitant taxes residents already pay. General Assembly proposal for tolls this last legislative session only proposed reducing the gas tax by half a penny a year for a few years.

Proposals for border-only highway tolls would cost Connecticut federal transportation funds. Tolls have to be situated throughout the state. This means that about 70 percent of any toll money collected will come from Connecticut drivers. While residents can get an EZ Pass that allows them to pay lower tolls, the state must also make them available to anyone who requests one, regardless of where they live. Also, while toll states mail bills to drivers without an EZ Pass, collection from those drivers remains a significant problem.

Ensuring that toll money collected funds repairs to Connecticut’s crumbling infrastructure is another issue. As recently as fiscal year 2017, the legislature raided the Special Transportation Fund to pay for General Fund expenditures. Do we trust that future legislatures won’t do the same things with toll money?

Lastly, if we can’t pay to fix our transportation infrastructure, how will we pay for tolls? And how long will it take before we see a return on that investment?

As I’ve said before, tolls are simply another tax on an already over-taxed public. It’s time to stop looking for new revenue and look at how we are spending the revenue we do have.

State Senator Toni Boucher represents the 26th District, which includes the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.