(News Times Editorial) “As Sen. Mike McLachlan puts it, ‘Tolls are taxes. We are overtaxed already.’”

May 7, 2014

Article as it appeared in the Danbury News-Times

The specter of toll booths along Connecticut’s borders has once again reared its ugly head.

State Rep. Antonio Guerrera of Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the legislative Transportation Committee, favors border tolls on interstate highways and notes that pending federal legislation would give states more flexibility in instituting toll booths.

Guerrera admits it is too late to push for border tolls in the nearly concluded General Assembly session, but he is already looking ahead to reviving the controversial revenue-raising proposal in the future.

The Rocky Hill Democrat is politically safe in calling for toll booths along Connecticut’s borders, since his district is located in the middle of the state and his constituents would be little affected.

Guerrera and other proponents ignore the negative impact those toll booths would have on the residents and business communities all along the state’s western, northern and eastern borders.

Border tolls would be bad for Connecticut, and we call on state legislators, town officials, businesspeople and regular citizens to raise their voices in opposition before any movement to create them gains momentum.

For starters, Connecticut officials and residents have long abhorred toll booths, in part because they pose a potential safety hazard and slow up traffic.

The state shut down all toll booths nearly three decades ago, following the fiery crash at tolls along Interstate 95 in Stratford in which six people were killed when a sleeping truck driver plowed into a line of vehicles waiting at the booths.

Technological improvements since then have made toll booths a bit safer and more efficient, but danger still lurks at tolls, and the state’s congested highways do not need more obstacles that would slow traffic.

The introduction of border tolls would also constitute an additional levy on the residents of Connecticut, a state in which the tax burden is already onerous for citizens and businesses alike.

As Republican state Sen. Mike McLachlan of Danbury puts it, “Tolls are taxes. We are overtaxed already.”

Importantly, border tolls would discriminate against Connecticut residents who live near a state line, especially those who commute or travel out of state on a daily or regular basis, including thousands of residents of Greater Danbury.

Guerrera points to the potential windfall of “an annual revenue stream of hundreds of millions, paid, in significant measure, by out-of-state drivers.”

What Guerrera fails to emphasize is that those same toll booths would be imposing hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes for in-state drivers — and especially those who live fairly close to the border.

It might be fine for residents who live miles from New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island for the state to institute those toll booths, but border tolls would be burdensome, discriminatory and grossly unfair for citizens who live close to the state line.

Border tolls would also prompt motorists, especially those who cross state lines every day, to travel on local side roads to avoid paying the tolls, which would clog those arteries and make them less safe.

Such tolls would also hurt businesses along the border. They would pose a deterrent to out-of-state residents who wish to travel to Connecticut to shop, thus hurting businesses ranging from those at the Danbury Fair mall to mom-and-pop operations.

Bottom line, border tolls are simply a bad idea, and any proposal to institute them needs to be stopped in its tracks.