I wonder if anybody believed candidate Ned Lamont when he said he didn’t plan to toll cars. Other people, out of state trucks, not you voters. As election opponent Bob Stefanowski warned, he was lying. With the election won Connecticut governor Lamont revealed his true plan, tolls for all.
Tolls are addictive. The first proposal is the camel’s nose in the tent.
I do believe he wants to charge nonvoters higher tolls. Any politician understands the benefit of taxation without representation. He’s offering Connecticut residents a special transponder with lower toll rates. Opponents point out that such a pass must be offered to all comers, resident or nonresident, to avoid offending the dormant commerce clause.
To drive from Boston to New York City you’d want a Massachusetts transponder to start, because Massachusetts also has discriminatory toll rates. At the Connecticut line you should switch to a Connecticut pass. Maybe New York will get in on the act and you’ll need three. Remember to put the two inactive transponders in a foil bag so you don’t get charged three times.
Another state tolling nonresidents might be the straw that leads the federal government to impose a uniform nationwide electronic tolling system. Patchworks of state-specific driving rules have been unraveled before.
Trucks used to be covered in license plates for each state the truck might pass through. Some drivers needed different licenses for different states. Fuel taxes were also a mess.
Now there’s one apportioned plate. One driver’s license. One fuel tax system.
The modern fuel tax system makes politicians in Rhode Island and Connecticut liars for blaming out of state trucks. Tax revenue from truck fuel is shared among states. If a truck fills up in New York City and drives to Boston, Connecticut gets a share of the fuel tax.
Pointing the finger at trucks was dishonest misdirection.
Another bit of misdirection is claiming that most states have tolls. Outside of the Northeast most toll facilities are managed lanes, bridges, or tunnels. For example, Atlanta has 50 miles of express lanes running parallel to slower free lanes. Those lanes are for optional use by local commuter traffic. Lamont wants about 200 miles of tolls targeting through and long distance traffic. According to a Wikipedia editor only ten states have more than 150 miles of toll facilities excluding managed lanes.
Perhaps worried about the constitutional implications of overtly discriminatory rates, the governor suggests as an alternative a “commuter discount.” He hopes that only residents would use it. He’s also going to offer a tax credit for residents with income and demographics he likes.
Think that new revenue is going to make your drive easier? Lamont wants to build a railroad. Connecticut’s so-called lockbox doesn’t dedicate gas taxes to road construction. It reserves transportation funds for transportation projects. Diversion of gas tax revenue is national policy.
A court in Pennsylvania may have something to say soon on the practice of taxing nonresidents to fund local transit projects. NMA and OOIDA are suing over diversion of toll money away from roads. Like Massachusetts and New York, Pennsylvania collects tolls on highways with many interstate travelers and diverts the revenue to unrelated projects. A federal law authorized toll diversion in New York. It does not authorize toll diversion in Pennsylvania. Or Connecticut.
The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.