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Toll me, please

I made a three-day road trip to North Carolina recently, and I will confess to listening to a lot of '70s rock, once I had finished with news podcasts reminding me of the futility of the attempted Trump impeachment removal.

Nostalgia for the Nixon era seemed strangely comforting, a time when the Republican establishment could not tolerate presidential misdeeds that now seem trivial, even quaint, compared to Trump's.

"Oh, baby this town rips the bones from your back/It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap/We gotta get out while we're young," Springsteen sang in "Born to Run" as I cruised 95, my car gliding under countless E-ZPass toll gantries, my money slipping out of some digital wallet somewhere.

Modern toll paying is indeed easy. And fair. I paid my way through New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, contributing to the costs of the highways I was using, instead of freeloading on residents of those states, expecting them to maintain their roads for me at the expense of education and important social programs.

A few times I used my E-ZPass to pay a little more and ride in limited access lanes with much less congestion, a new highway pleasure for me.

"Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run," belted my soundtrack.

Connecticut highways, in contrast, are woefully clogged and antiquated. There are even some modern rigs with heavy loads the Gold Star Memorial Bridge no longer can accommodate because it's in such bad shape, not safe.

I couldn't help but think, while cruising all those modern highways to our south, how the sad state of Connecticut's highway infrastructure is now the fault of Trump's Republican party here in Connecticut.

The same way Trump tried to leverage important American foreign aid for his own political gain, Connecticut Republicans have rejected reasonable modern tolling methods, which could improve our roads, for their own political expediency, deciding that opposition to tolls is popular enough to make their party relevant again.

I can only hope Connecticut voters will finally see the cynicism in the Republican anti-toll campaign. They'd be against apple pie if they thought they could spin it into an attack on Democrats.

Where's the leadership to help voters understand we need this important source of out-of-state revenue from out-of-state users? Stop the freeloading.

Each time I hear a Connecticut GOP tolls rant, I expect for it to end with a snarled "fake news" or "hoax."

What is most craven about the way Republicans incessantly rock their no-tolls hobby horse is that their alternative is to borrow for transportation spending or rob the rainy day fund, undermining the one longstanding and commendable pillar of their party: fiscal prudence.

Borrowing and spending rainy day reserves? That's the new GOP mantra? Shame on them.

Like the Trump Republicans signing on for rising federal deficits to finance tax cuts for the rich, these Connecticut Republicans have no shame when it comes to political expediency.

I am no fan of Gov. Ned Lamont, who got elected because the other choices were a convicted felon or a payday loan shark who ludicrously proposed eliminating the income tax, a sure-fire vote-getting promise if it was the least bit credible.

Lamont has irrevocably forsaken eastern Connecticut, closing the region's historic port to the benefit of one in New Haven privately owned by the politically connected.

The governor is right about tolls, although it's not clear he can put enough spine in his ruling party to get it passed.

If tolls are the political Waterloo that Republicans want to make it into, then let's go.

Let's see whether voters ultimately choose fiscal prudence and responsible stewardship of the state's transportation future over cheap political tricks.

I have faith in Connecticut voters to ultimately respect responsibility and reject gimmicks, like they did in seeing through a bogus and cynical promise to eliminate the income tax, no matter how appealing that may have been.

"But 'til then," as Springsteen would have it, "tramps like us/Baby, we were born to run."

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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