Governor Ned Lamont recently reversed his campaign position of only installing tolls for trucks in Connecticut and expanded his toll proposal to include all vehicles. Now, while many may have a knee-jerk reaction against such a move, in the long run tolling Connecticut roads may greatly help the state’s aging transportation infrastructure for a cheaper price.
If tolls are not introduced to Connecticut highways, then other taxes would likely have to be raised. For instance, the gasoline tax would probably be raised in order to fund repairs to infrastructure and the sales tax would likely be raised as well. It would be better to introduce tolling instead of raising these taxes because it is preferable to have out-of-state drivers pay some of the bill than have only Connecticut residents foot it.
Also, increasing the percentage of tax revenue that goes towards transportation improvements will only create holes in other Connecticut budgets as funds are taken from them and put towards transportation. For instance, a CT Post article says that Lamont did not want to increase the amount of car sales tax revenue that went towards transportation because it would still not be enough to prevent a deficit in the transportation fund by 2023 and it would create a hole in the general fund for Connecticut.
As for the idea of only tolling trucks on Connecticut’s highways, the fact is that this would not raise enough revenue for the state to actually be able to fund infrastructure repairs. According to a CT Mirror article, tolling trucks would only raise between $45 million and $200 million, while tolling all vehicles would raise about $800 million (). Also, only tolling trucks will likely lead to a legal challenge, as it has in Rhode Island.
One alternative that opponents to tolling have brought to the table is paying for infrastructure improvements with bonding, or borrowing money that has to be paid back later. The Republicans in the Connecticut Senate and House have proposed a plan that would allow for $1 billion in funding for transportation from bonding, but the drawback from this is that Connecticut residents would be paying back the bonds needed for this for decades, according to a Hartford Courant editorial article. With tolling, Connecticut residents would not have to pay as much, and out of state drivers would help immensely with the costs, paying up to around 40 or 50 percent of it. The CT Post quotes Lamont as saying, “It’s time for those out-of-state drivers to foot the bill for fixing our roads and bridges.” This is an important benefit of installing tolls. Connecticut highways are full of out-of-state drivers who are making their way to Boston or New York, and tolling split the tax burden instead of putting it exclusively on Connecticut residents.
Now, in order for tolling to be done the right way, tolls should only be put on the busiest highways where the most out-of-state drivers commute. Also, Connecticut residents should be given a discount on how much they have to pay versus how much out-of-state drivers have to pay. Tolling can be beneficial for a cheaper long-term way to improve Connecticut’s ageing infrastructure, but it has to be done the right way so that Connecticut residents are treated fairly. After all, we have been taxed so much already; If Lamont is going to introduce yet another tax, it should be out of state drivers who contribute more so that Connecticut residents are given somewhat of a break.
Ben Crnic is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.