The issue of tolls seemed to rear its ugly head at the State Capitol this year as individual legislators brought forth proposed legislation in the Transportation Committee. However, this time it was a way to generate more state dollars to fill our large budget deficit.
As of today, only one proposal made it out of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, although it did not gain my support. House Bill 6200 An Act Concerning the Establishment of Tolls on New Highways or Highway Extensions is identified as a toll proposal for the unfinished Route 11 project in Southeastern CT, although the language is not specific to that project. As much as I agree that we need some sort of funding mechanism to finish the Route 11 project, I disagree strongly that tolls are an appropriate way to raise the revenue for new or unfinished transportation projects and saw this specific idea as a slippery slope to the re-instituting of tolls throughout Connecticut.
Although the Route 11 toll proposal survived the committee process, many other tolls proposals were summarily rejected, including border tolls and a proposal to toll just trucks.
Some facts to keep in mind as the debate goes forward on tolls: Connecticut cannot unilaterally install on interstates tolls without first receiving approval from the federal government, or risk paying back all the federal assistance it has received since we last had tolls.
Each year Connecticut receives approximately $500 million in federal funding due to the fact our state has no toll roads.
When it comes to border tolls, the federal government has told Connecticut that they violate the federal commerce clause. Connecticut can erect tolls on its non-interstate expressways, such as Route 2, 8, 9, 25 and others, but of course that leaves the vast majority of highway travel in CT occurs on interstates and it would be hard to recoup any costs associated with operating tolls on these roads alone.
Remember this, Connecticut presently benefits from many out of state consumers entering our borders on a daily or weekly basis to do business in Connecticut, which includes retail sales tax revenue. Look no further than the Danbury Fair Mall, the New York State border, derives 40% of its sales from out of state consumers. In today’s struggle to find and keep jobs, can Connecticut really give consumers another reason not to come and consequently hurt our local businesses?
I remain against any re-institution of tolls due to these many factors and it is my hope that as the legislature works on closing the largest budget gap in our state’s history, tolls are not part of the solution