There will be a public hearing on the toll bill on Friday in Hartford at 1 pm at the Legislative Office Building in room 1E. You can also submit testimony like I just did at TRAtestimony@cga.ct.gov . See my comments below.
To the State Legislature Transportation Committee, 1/28/2020. I write in opposition to Draft Bill LCO #373 for the following reasons:
• Tolls are a regressive tax that that hurts those less able to pay it
• Other states with tolls do not have a car property tax and so many other taxes as we do in CT.
• Tolls will be an additional burden on a weak economy, its citizens and businesses that have yet to recoup from the great recession.
• Adding to the cost of commuting is another disincentive to move to the state. The bill does not mention what tax will be eliminated if tolls are put in place.
• Connecticut already has a high gas tax and a very high diesel fuel tax but at least they cover everyone that drives and not just those that have long commutes.
• Trucks already pay high gas taxes and a pass- through tax in addition to diesel taxes of over $17 million a year. How much higher will goods and services cost us for this truck toll? Will the revenue from the truck pass- through fee go away?
• The diversionary traffic will clough our already congested side streets and Route 1. The additional costs of repairing local roads fall on towns as trucks bypass the tolls like so many cars and trucks do in MA and NY.
• Toll experts tell us that DOT cost estimates are severally underestimated. Connecticut estimates a 1 cent per transaction cost when experts that do this for a living in New York tell us that it is 5- 8 cents to process toll fees and 50% more in the cost of the construction of toll gantries.
• Tolls would be built in at least 12 locations throughout the state. Nothing in the bill stops the state from building additional toll locations in the future.
• Trucks will have to pay right away, and cars could be next through a loophole in the bill.
• The revenue forecasts in the bill do not even come close to what will be needed to pay for road and bridge improvements. Higher toll fees and more gantries will be in our future because protections in the bill are not enough to stop future car tolling.
• The state has lost the trust of the public when it comes to protecting fees for their intended purpose. Examples are state raids on tobacco, energy and other funds.• The 684 toll puts CT taxpayers at risk for lawsuits from the trucking industry (i.e. Rhode Island) and legal challenges from the state of NY.
• The ability to raise rates will be entirely in the hands of the new state Transportation Council. Lawmakers will not have to hold a vote to increase toll rates and answer to taxpayers. And there’s nothing taxpayers or lawmakers can do to stop them.
• There is no sunset clause in this bill. Once in place tolls will never go away and can be expanded without public input.
• It borrows more than the Republican no-tolls transportation plan, putting more debt on future generations, and still requires tolls.
The public does not know the numbers, which transportation projects will be funded, and which projects included in earlier proposals got eliminated. They will have no say on which transportation projects they need in their part of the state. The DOT and its Council will make all the decisions.
Finally, there is no explanation of if and how the Special Transportation Fund would remain in balance and how high toll fees will go. The public will have no say over future toll hikes nor where toll revenue will be used.