Tolls — or rather, the very idea of at least studying highway tolls as a possible way of recharging the Special Transportation Fund — have become a political hot potato in an election year.
Candidates have taken a range of positions, from a qualified “yes” to “no way.” But what we object to is the way it was done — or, on the contrary, not done. Our lawmakers by and large chose to avoid the subject, this election year, leaving it to outgoing Gov. Dannel Malloy to push a $10 million loan through the State Bond Commission.
We have to agree with Comptroller Kevin Lembo, the only Democrat on the panel to vote against the $10 million, when he said the bond commission “should not act as a replacement for legislative action.”
Many Republicans opposed the toll study (“People in Connecticut don’t want tolls,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, of North Haven. “We don't need to do a toll study.”) But that should have been the decision of the people we elect to represent us in Hartford, not of a small commission largely controlled by a lame-duck governor. If Fasano and his GOP colleagues are against tolls, they had at least two years to come up with an alternative to pay for road improvements.
Tolls are a tough issue, and plenty of Connecticut residents are averse to being taxed in yet another way, while they may look forward to getting revenue instead from all the out-of-state trucks passing through our state.
But who will pay if we do bring back tolls, if we do — and how much — will depend entirely on how the system is designed. Studying tolls is not the same as implementing tolls. How can the legislature intelligently decide if tolls are desirable and feasible unless there is some kind of a study?
We can’t help but speculate that the legislature did not fund a toll study because they were worried it would be used against them in an election year.
Once again, answering these questions is the job of our servants in Hartford, who should stop ducking this issue and start doing their job.