With elected officials, the best taxes are those that most people can’t see or understand and that can’t easily be evaded even by the people who can see and understand them. That’s one reason Governor Lamont last week settled on a proposal to impose highway tolls exclusively on trucks. The other reason is that once the toll gantries are in place, they can toll all traffic if trucks-only tolling is found unconstitutional or against federal law.
The governor says his latest toll proposal could raise nearly $200 million a year for transportation infrastructure. People are supposed to think that this revenue will come only from truckers and not ask where the truckers will get the money. Of course the truckers will get it from raising rates for deliveries throughout Connecticut, thereby raising prices on everything shipped into the state. Most people will pay through intermediaries without realizing that they are paying at all — politically perfect.
Advocates of this tolling claim that trucks don’t pay their “fair share” of taxes while doing most of the damage to Connecticut’s highways. But trucks in interstate commerce already pay heavy taxes to all states, including Connecticut, and most of the highway damage in the state is due to its sharply variable climate, not trucks.
But no matter, since the Lamont administration and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly want tolls not for transportation at all but just to avoid economizing in the rest of state government in favor of transportation. Already this year they have diverted transportation fund money to other spending.
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Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer