Maybe is was anti-Trump sentiment. Maybe not. It really doesn’t matter.
The end result of the 2018 election was a major Democratic majority in both the House and Senate. A Democratic Governor. And a Democratic just about everything else.
Spectacular power. Enough power to bring some stability to state government, and a governor who had enough real-life business experience to apply real logic and reason to the state crisis.
Yes, the nonsense about tolls for trucks only was ill-advised. But so was the dream his opponent floated about eliminating an income tax.
What Lamont realized, along with countless residents with a basic knowledge of economics, is that Connecticut faced a crisis of stability. For economic growth, stability is king. The unknown, for every business on the planet, is a massive “stay away” sign for the state.
Transportation upgrades are badly needed, but Lamont also saw that gas tax receipts are slowing, and anyone can easily see that trend will continue. Cars are far more efficient, and many are moving to electric vehicles. Yet a more efficient vehicle still uses roads and bridges, and still causes the same wear. Same for electric cars.
So both an unstable income tax, and a falling and unstable gas tax. Major issues.
Lamont proposes tolls and less borrowing. And rightfully so. Tolls offer stability, and less borrowing means less debt, less debt payments, less money going to interest fees. The Lamont plan offers a genuine path to stability.
Republicans can yell ‘no tolls’ from anywhere they want, but they have yet to offer any solution that increases stability in revenue for the state. The latest plan takes money over 5% of the Rainy Day fund and moves it to pensions to create some sort of claimed stability, then borrow more.
I know, I know, that’s absurd. But they had to say something.
So Lamont presents a real plan. Tolls. Not this ‘new temporary tolls in front of bridges’ thing, or some nonsense about temporary fees. The actual plan. The first one. The good one.
That the Democrats fight this to the point of running from a good, viable plan to bring stability to the budget and create a dedicated revenue stream for needed transportation improvements is nothing short of cowardice. There is no alternative, other than disaster.
In the next few years the economy will falter. Every high is followed by a dip. A state economy propped up by income taxes will see reduced revenues, and a legislature that hates cutting anything. The rainy day fund, as high as it is compared to past years, is nowhere near enough to cover a multiple year drop, and there will be another cry to increase the income tax.
And the cycle will repeat itself every 5-7 years as normal economic swings take place, no matter what state of denial your local representative lives in.
Unless the Democrats grow a backbone.
We all get it. People in your district have convinced you your seat is gone next election if you vote tolls.
Unlikely. A presidential election with Trump on the ballot will see a massive Democratic turnout. Hell, it caused a massive turnout for a state race in 2018 with Trump not even on the ballot. Your seat is safer than you think.
But it is true Lamont is a god-awful salesperson. The plan makes sense, but there seems to be no spokesperson able to detail why it makes sense.
So try this:
Every person driving in this state over the last 15 years is paying less in gas tax now than 15 years ago. The same model cars are significantly more efficient, and use less gas. The gas tax is per gallon, not a percentage. Less gas = less gas tax.
Gas tax is deceiving, as its one of the few taxes not separated out for the average buyer. If you see an appliance on sale, a car, a new piece of furniture, all the prices posted do not include the applicable taxes.
But with gas, including the gas tax in the price leads many to miss what they are actually spending in taxes. Most believe the cost of a gallon of gas is the price posed outside the gas station. Its not. Unlike almost any other item, the taxes are included in that price.
Lets do some basic math. If your gas tank holds 20 gallons, you pay $5 per fill up, in gas tax. If you travel for work, and fill up twice a week, you spend $520 a year in gas tax.
And as your vehicle is more efficient, that’s less than it was in the past. And it will go down over time, as newer vehicles hit even more efficient mileage standards.
Now, this: Those who have the funds to buy that new Tesla get to pay no gas taxes! So your neighbor that got the new electric car for $60,000 get to pay for no gas and no gas tax. But still get to use the roads as much as everyone else. Not to mention the $7500 tax credit they likely received.
Tolls are far more stable, more fair, and are better suited to fund ongoing transportation needs than the gas tax or significant borrowing. Infrastructure demands, like roads, don’t end. They are not a one-time expenditure. Borrowing to get specific projects done as if that will complete the needs for good is ignorant of reality.
Democrats, grow a spine. Pass tolls, along with a reduction of the gas tax over the next 10 years. Reaffirm the “lock box,” and ensure all toll revenue goes to transportation.
This takes one of the most impactful aspects of economic growth, transportation upgrades and spending, separates it out of the overall budget, creates stability, and provides a viable path forward for the state.