Lamont pulls a Weicker
Surprise! That was the reaction heard from most politicians and pundits after Gov. Ned Lamont’s announcement that he was exploring – with the idea of implementing – tolls throughout the state’s limited access highways. This was an idea that he had given short shrift to in his campaign, but in true Lowell Weicker, Jr. fashion Lamont was against the idea – until he was for it.
No one should be surprised by the Lamont announcement. In fact, we believe the only true reaction of surprise came from Lamont’s former GOP opponent, Bob Stefanowski. He was not so surprised by the announcement as to the fact the governor announced it so soon after taking office. He suspected the toll issue would be flip-flopped, but not so quickly. The rest of the reactions were, especially from Democrats, posturing.
It should be remembered that Weicker set the tune in the hymnal when he flipped on the state income tax, which he called “pouring gasoline on the fire.” That was, until he determined very quickly he liked the idea.
The income tax was supposed to end all of the state’s bickering over funding, provide more cash than we knew what to do with, and allow the state to prosper and compete. The sugar coating for taxpayers was supposed to be the spending cap – one that has since been discarded by the General Assembly. The spending cap was duly ignored, and then just determined to be moot by state officials.
We bring up the income tax question because it has many parallels to what is seen today. The flip by Lamont is only the first parallel. A second is the fact the state will give a discount – some say as much as 50 percent – to state residents, while the full vig will be paid by out-of-state cars and carriers.
A third parallel is the promise – much like the fact the income tax would be the save-all for state expenses – the tolls would pay for infrastructure repair and replacement. Firstly, we’ve been paying for that in gasoline taxes. Does anyone remember the gas tax was earmarked for just such repairs and replacement when the Mianus River Bridge collapsed back in 1983? We do.
While it will be touted as a newer, better levy to fix our roads and bridges, this tax, and it is a tax, will find its way into the General Fund — just as all these earmarked levies have in the past.
Lamont lied, and Democrats are swearing to it. He knew he was going to try to implement tolls. It is the newest idea to extract more funds from the state’s tax-strapped residents. And once again, the move is as tone deaf as others Democrats have made in the last two decades.
Connecticut is losing people at an alarming rate, and the new tax law has increased that exodus. Now that families are allowed to deduct only $10,000 of state taxes from their returns, the state’s profligate is no longer being bankrolled by the federal government.
Instead of finding new ways to tax, the General Assembly should adjust to the new realities and find way to cut costs, streamline government, and cut wasteful and ineffective programs. We won’t hold our breath.
Connecticut, like New York, Massachusetts and Illinois, will not learn, nor will its politicians take heed. The harsh reality of bankruptcy is on the horizon, and it might be the state’s only salvation. Meanwhile, we have a politician in the governor’s office who does what they all do: lie.