Ground Hog Day In Hartford
The coming weeks in Hartford may seem like Groundhog Day … again. Why, you may ask, since Punxsutawney Phil already said it would be an early spring? It is because our state legislature is, once again, taking up the issue of tolls throughout the state. The vote was supposed to be this week. As of this writing, it may be next week, next month or later this year.
We have been amazed how proponents of tolls have never once had control of the issue or debate. As a result, anti-toll groups and individuals have created a grass-roots movement unlike any we have seen before. Greenwich’s own Hillary Gunn has become such a powerhouse that our Governor’s wife has emailed friends in town trying to find out who she is, as shown in recent emails made public.
The current toll proposal is to tax tractor-trailers only. Rhode Island passed similar legislation that is being challenged in federal court as being unconstitutional and violating the inter-state commerce clause. Recently elected State Representative Harry Arora brought clarity to the issue when he wrote that out-of-state trucks already pay a tax to use our highways, the Motor Carrier Road Tax (MCRT). “The MCRT, a lesser known tax, is paid by out-of-state truckers based on how many miles they drive in Connecticut. This debunks the current narrative that tractor trailers do no pay to use our roads; they already do.”
The current plan also calls for a gantry to be placed on the very short section of 684 that crosses the tip of Greenwich. This section of highway, which has no on or off ramps in Greenwich, is maintained by the state of New York. They plow it in the winter and their state police patrol it all year long. In what universe is placing a Connecticut toll there logical or even neighborly? In fact, Westchester politicians have already voiced outrage at the proposal, saying they were never consulted before the plan was made public. It surely will also be challenged in court. Appropriate due diligence in advance – homework – will save court challenges and legal fees as well as a myriad of other very real fiscal problems with this legislation. Connecticut is certainly in no position to waste more money.
What the legislature was to vote on this week (now pushed potentially to next week, next month or who knows when in a seemingly never-ending shell game) is such a flawed proposal that neither the Democrats in the Senate or House believe the other chamber will pass it. (That should tell us something.) In fact, they have come up with a plan that is more befitting P.T. Barnum than those we elected to represent us. They were to hold simultaneous votes in the Senate and House at the exact same moment to ensure it would pass both chambers. One, two, three… vote!
According to Senate and House rules, this is not even possible. They will need to suspend their own rules and put in place temporary ones before they can play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” with our legislative process. This is unacceptable and our entire delegation should be horrified, unified and vocal in opposition to a vote, any vote, occurring in such a manner.
The idea to reintroduce tolls has been floated repeatedly for the past few years. During that time Democrats have gained overwhelming majorities in both the Senate and House; however, they have been unable to garner enough votes to pass a toll bill. Polls have also shown a majority of Connecticut residents are not in favor of tolls.
What is currently before the legislature is a mockery. It has enough holes in it that, well, a tractor trailer could drive through it. They say nicotine is a gateway drug to using harder, more harmful drugs. This legislation is a gateway toll that will ultimately lead to tolling everyone who travels on Connecticut’s highways. That is unacceptable.
Just to be perfectly clear: to our delegation in Hartford and our Governor, your hometown weekly newspaper continues to be opposed to this toll legislation and, especially, the way it is being handled.