Opinion: No tolls but tax churches(?)

Opinion: No tolls but tax churches(?)



Got tolls? Not yet, but stay tuned.

Want tolls? Hardly anyone does, judging by the talk of the town and by that big, inflatable Toll Troll that activists have installed on the lawn of the state Capitol. 

But that matters little, because a General Assembly committee advanced three bills Wednesday, each of which would slap electronic tolls on both cars and trucks on Interstates 95, 91, 84 and parts of Route 15. 

These three measures will probably come out of the legislative meat grinder as one sausage, which, if passed into law, would mean that lots of regular folks who use those highways to get back and forth to work — or to soak up some rays at the beach, or to toss the tots in the Toyota for a trip to Aunt Tillie’s — would pay for the privilege.

That is, the new toll revenue that’s breathlessly anticipated won’t be coming just from those evil big rigs (which we like to think of as intruders from out of state, stomping their way through Little Old Connecticut on their way to somewhere else, when plenty of them are based right here at home), but also from you and me and Aunt Tillie (that is, if she’s still driving her vintage Buick to the casino to throw her money away.) However, it’s presumed there would be discounts for state residents.

Anyway, this will hardly affect Yrs Trly — unless I’m going to see my cardiologist (via I-91) or my dentist (I-84) or to have an MRI (I-91 again), or to one of those outlet malls along the Connecticut Linear Parking Lot (I-95).

Each bill cleared along party lines, with Democrats in support, following the lead of Gov. Ned Lamont, and Republicans in opposition.

“At the end of the day, it’s about narrowing to come up with the best plan possible, if one exists, to move forward,” said one Democrat, Sen. Carlo Leone of Stamford.

“Tolls are a tax,” the Republicans said in a statement, “and a regressive one at that. … The public has the power to make a difference. Please make your voices heard.”

***

Meanwhile, there’s also a move afoot to reorganize the state’s tourism effort and replace that aging slogan, “Still Revolutionary,” with something better. 

“The consensus was that it doesn’t work,” Lisa Scails, a member of Lamont’s transition team told The Day, of New London, in January.

She’s right, so here’s a modest proposal:

If we really were “still revolutionary,” we’d be talking about overthrowing our centuries-old custom (enshrined in law, but not in the state Constitution, although it arguably goes back to the Roman Emperor Constantine) of allowing property owned by churches and other houses of worship to go untaxed. 

There are estimates that if Uncle Sam could tax church income, the IRS would bring in an extra $80-plus billion a year. Just imagine the bonus to just about every town and city in Connecticut if they could tax church property. It would certainly replace some of the revenue they’ll be losing to a state car tax, and the teachers’ retirement fund, and ease some of the pain as Hartford cuts aid to municipalities.

Just a thought.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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