Hey, working suburban women who voted for the toll guy for governor -- get out your wallets. Multiple reports in Connecticut’s media advise us that Lamont eked out a win over Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski with some encouragement from suburban women, many of whom hold down jobs to which they travel – by car, not by largely empty FastTrack-powered buses.
During his gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Elect Ned Lamont was warm on tolls – but the tolls, working suburban women and others were told, would be levied only on out-of-state trucks, a dubious constitutional gambit. Rhode Island, the state from which Lamont lifted the idea, is now embroiled in law suits on the issue.
A little more than a week after the election, it was reported by the indispensable Yankee Institute that a new study commissioned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation calls for 82 tolling gantries on Connecticut highways. A note provided on a map furnished by the study authors reads, comfortingly, “Locations are for preliminary planning purposes only.”
The mapped major transportation arteries are pock-marked with red dots (see map above)— gantry locations that make the state look as if it had come down with an advanced case of measles. In a somewhat sour note, the study remarks that “fairness” in toll collections should be paramount: “Fairness – tolls should be set to ensure collection of revenues from CT as well as out-of-state auto and truck trips.” But fairness, Connecticut’s taxpayers will understand lies, like beauty and truth, in the eye of the beholder.
Speaking of fairness, Yankee notes wryly, “The study was previously kept under wraps by DOT Commissioner James Redeker and was the subject of a complaint to the Freedom of Information Commission by Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden. In July, Redeker cited the results of the study in testimony before the state Bond Commission but refused to release the study until today.” Len Suzio is no longer in the Senate, having been purged by politicians he has in the past unmercifully annoyed.
The Connecticut DOT has not yet produced a study showing the number of times tolling limited to a targeted subset has not, sooner or later, trickled down to a much broader base. And in fact, that is the case with nearly all taxes. The federal income tax began as a temporary tax on millionaires levied to pay for Civil War debt during the Lincoln administration. But in the course of time, the reinstituted income tax trickled down to non-millionaire working suburban women whose votes now have hoisted Lamont into a gubernatorial seat to be vacated in January by the most unpopular governor in the United States, Dannel Malloy, the author, along with a now revivified majority in the General Assembly, of two hefty tax increases.
If Connecticut’s onerous progressive tax system – which is the primary cause of budget instability – is ever to be reformed, the state might consider moving to a fair or flat tax in which every citizen in Connecticut pays the same rate and is therefore equally invested in state politics. The very rich, many of whom pay fewer taxes than their secretaries (see Warren Buffett on this), would pay the flat tax rate rather than shelter their assets through legalized chicanery, and the poor could be recompensed after having paid the tax. Collections would be simple, and large legal firms hired by the very rich to avoid paying crippling taxes would move on to more profitable pursuits.
Progressivism is little more than a political lure dangled before a credulous public to persuade them to vote for limitless spending that benefits politicians who shortly devise other means – tolling? – to further empty the pockets of working suburban women and all their other targets. Toll gantries placed approximately every 6.6 miles on interstates 95, 84, 91, 395, 691 and 291 and routes 2, 9, 8 and 15 would allow the state to take a major bite from working suburban women, among others. According to the study, Connecticut could collect more than $1 billion per year from electronic tolls.
If there is anyone in the state who believes that tolling – count the gantries – will be long limited to out-of-state trucks, perhaps his or her voting rights should be taken from them and given to the guy behind the tree. Mocking those who believe the claims of politicians that they will be exempted from paying taxes, the late Louisiana Sen. Russell Long offered the following short pearl of wisdom in verse: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fellow behind the tree.”
Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.