The truth behind tolls
Over the last eight years, the previous administration implemented the Let’s Go CT! Ramp up program – an expedited transportation spending program. Under this program our state borrowed and spent an additional $5 BN. on our transportation system. Our capital program which used to average $1.2 bn in the decade prior was ramped by an average of $600 MN. annually. The promise was that this increased spending would solve our transportation bottlenecks and boost the economy. While it may have helped in some pockets, this additional spending has not delivered. Capital projects have been too expensive or have delivered low social returns because of the nature and location of the projects. Despite this spending spree, no one believes that our system has been updated. Traffic bottlenecks and delays, especially in the 95 corridor, are still a big challenge. Our state government has spent borrowed money unwisely.
Now, the borrowed money needs to be paid back with interest. Over the next two decades we will need to pay back $ 8.9 BN. in principal and interest, on spending which has already been done. These are numbers right from the Special Transportation Obligation Bond prospectus (page 13). Instead of correcting the course, the proposed plan is to disregard the fact that our capital allocation was done poorly and double up. The proposed plan is to start raising more money through tolls. The idea of charging hardworking people of CT nearly $750 MN. a year, in addition to the highest gasoline tax, is plain wrong. It is a recipe for disaster.
What we need is a judicious reallocation of our precious resources to the highest return capital projects. We need to revert to the long run $1.25 BN. annual capital program and prioritize our spending. What is required is an analytical approach to our infrastructure spending. We may need more investing in transit and new sharing technologies. We need a process of evaluating each line item closely, ranking it and funding those with the highest benefits.
We don’t need tolls on CT citizens. CT has amongst the highest gas taxes. Irrespective of party affiliation we need to recognize the wrong being done here by our elected officials. Tolls are a very regressive way to pay for our transportation spending. The restaurant worker and the teacher pay the same as the banker. They harm the struggling citizen the most. Any elected official who can justify this additional burden is misplaced in their judgment or their intentions. This is a test of our democratic process – will our state legislators use their power to crush those who voted for them? They do that at their own peril because it is hard to fool the people in the long run.