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The Republican plan: no tolls and no tax tncreases

Last week The Day published an editorial criticizing the Senate Republican no-tolls, no-tax increase transportation plan. We always respect and welcome a healthy debate. But the editorial attacked without the facts. It was irresponsible and not up to the standards readers expect or deserve.

This week, we reached out to the editorial board to explain our plan.

We showed how the Republican FASTR CT plan works with no tolls and no tax increases, how it borrows significantly less than Governor Lamont’s toll proposal, and how all the numbers were verified and supported by nonpartisan analysts and extensive research. This was not a last-minute half-baked proposal.

FASTR CT uses savings from paying down pension liabilities and cash to invest in transportation infrastructure. It pays down on debt using a portion of the state’s budget reserve fund, which is money the state has already collected from taxpayers and is statutorily allowed to be used to pay down pension debt. It’s like using funds in a savings account earning little interest to pay down personal credit card debt racking up huge interest, resulting in lower monthly payments.

The savings would allow us to invest in transportation through cash financing and leveraging federal loans at a drastically lower interest rate than current transportation bonding the state has relied on for decades. The plan still maintains a historic balance in the rainy day fund and grows that balance back to a record $2.5 billion by 2024.

Republicans proposed this plan because we heard loud and clear that taxpayers do not want to pay another new tax. We also believe that inaction is not an option and transportation must be a priority to grow jobs and support our economy.

The Day’s editorial board has a different perspective. They have long advocated for tolls to get out-of-state residents to contribute to the state’s coffers.

The issue with that argument is that to get 40 cents from an out-of-state resident, Connecticut residents will have to fork over 60 cents of their own money. Tolls may be a new tax on out-of-state residents, but they are also a new and much larger tax on Connecticut residents.

In addition, out-of-state drivers already contribute to Connecticut’s transportation budget, through per-mile costs that truck drivers pay, and through a disbursement of federal gas tax dollars that come from residents in all 50 states and which benefit Connecticut more than states that have tolls.

We know Connecticut residents are tired of being pickpocketed by government. We’ve all seen people juggling armfuls of groceries to avoid paying 10 cents for a bag. It’s not the amount of money that’s the issue. It’s the fact that government wants more when we have already paid so much. Most people don’t go digging through their couch cushions or car seats to find a lost dime, but they won’t pay 10 cents for a bag based on principle. It’s an insult to taxpayers.

When it comes to tolls, the argument that we need out-of-staters to pay has already been lost. Democrats have made it clear that they are not voting for passenger car tolls in an election year. While House Democrats have suggested trucks-only-tolls, they have not laid out a plan for how any of it would work. It’s also a lawsuit waiting to happen, which is why Gov. Lamont abandoned the truck-only idea before.

We know that if we do nothing the Special Transportation Fund, which pays for basic transit needs, will soon be insolvent. That would jeopardize even the bare minimum federal reimbursements we count on today. Waiting is not an option.

When the governor presented his latest toll plan, he asked lawmakers who opposed tolls to offer an alternative. Senate Republicans did exactly that. We came to the table with a full plan that has no tolls and no tax increases, which reduces bonding and debt, which cuts down on proposed spending, which leverages federal funding, which utilizes cash financing to further reduce borrowing, and that is sustainable for years to come.

The governor is now taking the time to carefully review our plan. We urge readers of The Day to do so as well.

Read our plan at ctsenaterepublicans.com/FASTRCT.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano represents the 34th Senate District including Durham, East Haven, North Haven and Wallingford. Senator Paul Formica serves as the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee and represents the 20th Senate District of Bozrah, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem, and Waterford.

 

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