CT GOP lawmakers come out swinging against idea of border tolls.

May 23, 2024

CT GOP lawmakers come out swinging against idea of border tolls. Do we need to worry?

Hartford Courant

A group of Connecticut Republican senators Wednesday thrashed the idea that there should ever be border tolls at the state line with Massachusetts.

It’s not quite clear whether there would be a serious proposal for tolls on the Massachusetts border, however, though the issue did create a firestorm of controversy in the Bay State over the past few weeks.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey told the Boston Herald that she pumped the brakes on a proposal offered by Secretary of Transportation Monica Tibbits-Nutty to help alleviate the commonwealth’s revenue shortfalls by installing tolls along the state’s borders. Tibbits-Nutt’s comments drew days of backlash.

For example, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu did not take kindly to the idea of tolling drivers entering Massachusetts at the state border, the Boston Herald reported.

“Looks like Massachusetts has found yet another way to unnecessarily take your money,” Sununu, a Republican, said in a statement to the Herald.
“All the more reason for more Massachusetts residents to make the permanent move to New Hampshire,” Sununu said. “The Live Free or Die state continues to be the place to be.”

In Connecticut, Sen. Republican Leader Stephen Harding, Sen. Henri Martin, ranking senator on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, Sen. Lisa Seminara, R-Avon, and Sen. Jeff Gordon, R-Woodstock, joined for a statement also condemning the idea of Massachusetts officials considering putting up border tolls

“Earlier this month, Gov. Lamont was asked if he would be re-introducing tolls in Connecticut. His response was ‘forget it.’  We urge him to also tell Massachusetts to forget this bad border tolls idea,” the senators said.

“It will serve as a tax on Connecticut residents, especially on those who live near the Massachusetts border and who work in Massachusetts. Things are expensive enough for hard-working people and their families.  They do not want tolls.”

The GOP team was reacting to a story by Patch that said, “State Sen. Robyn Kennedy, D-Worcester, included an amendment to the Senate Ways and Means Committee budget that might lead to tolls for border-crossers.”

The Herald reported that Tibbits-Nutt’s “unfiltered” comments at a WalkMassachusetts event on a theoretical plan to take tolls from drivers crossing state borders and charge higher excise taxes to pick-up truck owners do not represent the views of Healey or her administration.

“To be clear, I am not proposing tolls at any border. I have spoken to the Secretary and made that clear, and that I have confidence in her leadership moving forward in this important time as we work to ensure a strong and robust state transportation system,” Healey said, the Herald reported.

The Herald also reported that the MassGOP followed Healey’s statement with one, openly wondering who Tibbits-Nutt is referring to when discussing jacked up excise taxes on pick-ups and SUVs before the Governor’s Transportation Funding Task Force.

“Who exactly is this ‘type of person’ Secretary Tibbits-Nutt is addressing? Is it a parent with four children or someone who relies on a truck for work?” MassGOP Chair Amy Carnevale asked.

“The Secretary’s policy initiatives are the antithesis of what’s needed in Massachusetts. A poll came out last week that showed our workforce is leaving the state in droves due to Massachusetts’ unaffordability. Adding more taxes, more tolls, and more penalties for ordinary Massachusetts residents is only going to make Massachusetts less affordable, and add to the mass migration the Commonwealth has been experiencing,” Carnevale said.

The Herald also reported that Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance spokesman Paul Craney said Tibbits-Nutt’s comments during the event were “simply reprehensible.”

“Decisions to raise taxes, fees, or adding tolling should be made by our elected legislature, not announced by an overzealous, unelected bureaucrat before a special interest advocacy organization,” Craney said in a statement. “The people she’s villainizing are just ordinary people trying to go about their everyday lives. Our state government should make life easier for people, not harder.”

The conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance went further, calling on Healey to fire the cabinet official she elevated from an acting position just last October. Tibbits-Nutt had previously served as an Undersecretary for Transportation, but took over the Department of Transportation after the departure of former Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca.’

“Government should never be used as a weapon against the people. People that view taxation and our government as a weapon to be used against individuals they don’t like are a critical danger to our democracy and people rightly lose confidence in any public official who thinks that way. Governor Maura Healey needs to step up and remove Secretary Tibbits-Nutt from her position before she does real damage to the state,” spokesman Paul Craney said.

Asked if Tibbits-Nutt would like to add to Governor Healey’s statement, a Department of Transportation spokesperson said that her assertions were just part of an on-going conversation about the challenges facing the state and not necessarily representative of policy proposals, the Herald reported.

“At a recent event the Secretary was conveying that we need to have difficult conversations about how to make our transportation system work best for everyone. This task force is in its early stages and no decisions have been made about its potential recommendations. Any proposals would be made in collaboration with the Legislature and other stakeholders and would carefully consider any affordability and competitiveness implications,” the spokesperson said.

The Herald also noted that Tibbits-Nutt said a group tasked with developing recommendations for a long-term, sustainable transportation finance plan was discussing charging drivers at the state border in an effort to support road, rail, and transit systems throughout Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Amy Carnevale said Tibbits-Nutt showed the “true nature” of the Healey administration.
“Already grappling with the burden of unaffordability, the prospect of more tolls, increased taxes on Uber and Lyft rides, Amazon deliveries, and payroll taxes only adds to the struggle of Massachusetts residents. No Massachusetts resident wants that. It’s abundantly clear that the Healey-Driscoll administration’s approach to governance is government versus taxpayer,” Carnevale said in a statement.

Reporting by Boston Herald journalists Matthew Medsger and Chris Van Buskirk is included in this story. The Herald is a sister paper to the Hartford Courant.