Published 8:25 pm, Wednesday, February 23, 2011
When it comes to proposed bills at the Capitol in Hartford, a bad idea is never entirely gone -- for long.
So here we are once again having to say that border tolls in Connecticut are a bad idea.
Border tolls were not a good idea last year when proposed by an inland legislator, state Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill.
And border tolls still are not a good idea, as proposed this legislative session by state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia.
The Greater New Milford and Danbury areas are fortunate, however, to have a strong delegation that responded resoundingly against Sen. Prague's bill when it came to a public hearing last Friday.
Senate Bill No. 31 would "require the immediate operation of gateway tolls."
This bill should be a no-go.
A "gateway" toll would place an unfair burden on the border towns and their residents, and it would discourage their out-of-state shoppers.
People who live along the state line with New York, Massachusetts or Rhode Island should not be penalized by paying a toll every time their vehicle crosses over on the highway.
This would be a tax, plain and simple, borne primarily by residents who live near other states.
Certainly some drivers would likely try to circumvent a highway toll and take local roads, which would lead to congestion and undue wear.
Again, this would result in an expense and inconvenience borne by municipalities along borders.
At Danbury Fair mall, an estimated 40 percent of the customers come from New York. Stores in Danbury send more than $67 million annually in sales tax revenue to Hartford -- any decrease in patronage would translate to a decrease in sales taxes.
Although it is understandably tempting to suggest new sources of revenue for this cash-strapped state, a gateway toll is not the answer.
The bill calls for an "immediate" toll, but in reality it would take more than four years before the system could be operational, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said.
And a highway toll would trigger a substantial decrease in federal funding for transportation that Connecticut has received since eliminating tolls decades ago.
One might ask that if trucks and cars must pay tolls on certain highways in neighboring states, such as New York and Massachusetts, why should they travel through Connecticut paying nary a cent?
The only way a similar EZPass-type system could work in this state would be if it were equitably distributed and if new technology were available whereby vehicles would not have to stop at toll booths.
That situation would be far, far down the road in time.
But the toll bills as proposed last year by Rep. Guerrera and this year by Sen. Prague stop far short of any such innovation.
We urge state Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield and a ranking member of the Transportation Committee, to continue fighting this ill-conceived bill along with the rest of the vigilant local delegation and all other fair-minded legislators.
Gateway tolls should get on the road to nowhere.