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Malloy Encourages Transportation Finance Panel To Look At All Options

by | Aug 5, 2015 4:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: State Budget, Taxes, State Capitol, Transportation, East Hartford

Christine Stuart photo Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he doesn’t know a whole lot about “mileage taxes,” but he wants the task force created to come up with ideas to fund his 30-year, $100 billion transportation initiative to consider everything.

The idea of taxing drivers based on how much they drive is an idea that’s being piloted in Oregon and it’s one of the many funding concepts raised by the Transportation Finance Panel last week. The panel is expected to make their recommendations in a final report due to Malloy and the General Assembly in mid-October.

“I think they’re looking at every way to do it,” Malloy said Tuesday at an event in East Hartford.

He said a mileage tax wasn’t his proposal, but that’s why they have a panel to look at all the options.

Former state Rep. Cameron Staples, who chairs the transportation panel, told the panel that they “are not embracing anything particular,” but “should be open to all forms of revenue that are reasonable ways to finance part or all of the governor’s transportation plan.”

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, couldn’t even believe a mileage tax was raised for consideration by the panel.

“This is another tax residents simply cannot afford and this is not the direction Connecticut should be headed,” Boucher, the ranking Republican on the Transportation Committee, said in a statement. “. . . I cannot understand how anyone can think this is a good idea.”

Most of last week’s meeting involved a discussion about reinstating tolls on Connecticut’s highways. A bill to allow electronic tolls to be placed on Connecticut’s highways failed to get called for a vote on the floor of the House and lawmakers are divided about whether it’s a good idea.

Transportation Committee co-Chairman Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, has argued that with more cars getting 50 miles per gallon, gas tax revenue will decline and the state will need to find another way to fund its transportation improvements. One of those ways is tolls.

Patrick Jones, executive director of the International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, told the panel that tolling has come a long way in 30 years.

“Tolling is a viable, proven, and increasingly popular tool to fund major transportation infrastructure,” Jones said.

He said there are nearly 6,000 miles of tolled highways in the country that collect more than $13 billion in tolls annually.

A 2013 Quinnipiac University poll found that 58 percent of Connecticut residents oppose tolls. However, that same poll found 57 percent of voters support tolls if the money raised is used to repair the state’s roads and bridges.

Jones explained that electronic tolling could be mounted above the highway system and installed without plazas. The money would be collected by transponders that drivers would have in their windshields.

A photograph of the license plate of a driver without a transponder could be mailed to their residence with a bill to be paid at a later date. Jones said tolling agencies usually decide how many times a vehicle can pass through without paying before they look to enforce the toll.

Oz Griebel, president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance and a member of the panel, asked about how many vehicles try to avoid toll by getting off the highway and taking a side street.

Jones said over time most people understand avoiding the toll isn’t saving them time on the commute.

“I wouldn’t be too concerned about that,” Jones said.

As far as privacy is concerned, Jones said every toll agency has their own requirements. There are 120 toll agencies in 35 states, but most require law enforcement to get a court order for the information.

The panel made no decisions last week about whether it would recommend tolling or a mileage tax or something else. The panel is expected to meet again in September.

Malloy said Tuesday that he doesn’t expect a special session on transportation until the fall.

“I think August is a nice time for us to iron out some things,” Malloy added.

He said he’s still committed to a constitutional lockbox for transportation funding, even though there’s debate with Democratic legislative leaders over whether that should include the half percent of the sales tax now going to fund transportation.

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(7) Archived Comments

posted by: Noteworthy | August 5, 2015  8:50am

Taxes, taxes ever more taxes - and nothing but grand schemes from the political elites who are dreamers and schemers - $100 billion in transportation; billions in new schools; $300 million in office renovations so our pampered state employees can be more comfortable - $1,000/inch Magic Busway. It never ends.

posted by: Jim in Mfg | August 5, 2015  1:07pm

If our feckless representatives opt for the toll/transponder/camera method, they had better not hire a 3rd party on a % basis.  Many states are pulling back on stoplight cameras because taxpayers learned that the 3rd party operator was getting the lion’s share of the ticket value.

posted by: LongJohn47 | August 5, 2015  2:44pm

Noteworthy—were you around when President Eisenhower pushed through the National Defense Highway Act that created our Interstate highway system?  What would you have said to that program from 1950’s “dreamers and schemers”?  What would CT look like without I-95, I-84, and I-91?

Were you around when Metro-North was created by 1980’s “dreamers and schemers” from a failed passenger rail system?  What would we do without commuter rail?

President Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, pushed through legislation that created the first transcontinental railroad and opened up the West.

Infrastructure projects are massive, costly, and fundamentally critical to our economy.  And of course they’re paid for (at least initially) by taxes, but the economic benefits far outweigh the costs.

If you’re a businessman you know you have to invest to make money.  the Governor has put a bold plan on the table.  Let’s talk specifics rather than simply bitch and moan about paying taxes.

posted by: justsayin | August 5, 2015  5:47pm

This from the guy who closed the door on every budget discussion.

posted by: timelord | August 6, 2015  9:39am

“that same poll found 57 percent of voters support tolls if the money raised is used to repair the state’s roads and bridges.”

How can people keep falling for this well-worn trick?  Gasoline and diesel taxes were supposed to be used exclusively to fund road repair. CT has one of the highest taxes on gasoline yet the roads are a mess. Why? Because that money goes into the general fund and Malloy passes it out to his buddies through the First 5 (6, 7, 8 ...) corporate welfare program.

The lottery revenue was supposed to be used exclusively for education.  That didn’t last long as our thieving lawmakers rewrote the law so that now it goes into the general fund.

Whatever scheme these criminals come up with to pay for the roads will soon enough be retooled so the the revenue goes into the general fund instead. Then they will spend it all on something else and when the roads need to be repaired they’ll dream up a new tax and promise it’ll only be used for ...

posted by: timelord | August 6, 2015  9:52am

@Jim in Mfg, I hear you and I understand why you don’t want that.  I feel the same way. It’s easy to see how red light cameras were used everywhere they were rolled out - income generators for the city - and income generators for the companies that owned the systems.

The alternative is just as frightening, however.  Can you imagine the nightmare of dealing with a freshly created state agency for a toll collection problem?  A whole new bunch of unelected bureaucrats presiding over a gaggle of disaffected drones whose only job is to talk with people who called to complain?

We’re screwed either way!

posted by: CtGasGuy | August 7, 2015  10:11am

Someone needs to explain how a mileage tax will be imposed on out of state drives which CT DOT now accounts for over 53% of commuter traffic and pay nothing.

Our only CT residents going o pay for the need infrastructure updates and 53% of those who use those upgrades pay nothing.

This is so simple on the funding - electronic tolling is the only way to collect from all - the big issues is reducing the gas tax once the tolls are in place and LOCKING LOCKING LOCKING up the money.

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