Line in sand over tolls
There is an unexpected cause célèbre in Connecticut, that many including myself didn’t see coming: highway tolls. What could have, in another time and place, been a barely noticeable legislative maneuver, has polarized the state legislature and galvanized the population like never before. While those in power and their associates look to make fortunes off the speculation and installation of these tolling gantries, a desperate yet passionate populace has spent the last months pouring time and money they don’t have into what will result, as an absolute best case scenario, in maintenance of the status quo. To be sure, there have emerged steadfast leaders in this movement, such as the inimitable and fearless Patrick Sasser. And figures such as Bob Stefanowski have risen like cream in a bucket of mundane former candidates, but the truest heart of the anti-tolling movement has been the everyday Nutmeggers looking to stop the bleeding in the state they love so much.
These people recognize that Connecticut has become a battlefield, with a governor who ran on a lie and continues to use backdoor negotiations and big-union campaign incentives to “persuade” his party to turn their back on the will of their constituency. They recognize that all halfhearted future compromises proffered, such as dollar bus fares or a pitiful reduction of the gas tax, mean absolutely nothing set against the backdrop of Gov. Ned Lamont’s televised pledge to toll only trucks. This, however ironically, remains the good news. Despite the proverbial shrapnel littering our path, nothing has been irrevocably set in motion. As the legislative session draws to a close and a toll vote looms, all members of the Connecticut General Assembly have a beautiful opportunity to keep that promise. We can hit a reset button, and turn our attention back toward the thousands of other issues plaguing our home. We can make tough choices, like spending cuts and project prioritization. We can temporarily suspend new projects while we work to fix our failing infrastructure. We can take a step forward, together, toward a healthy and radiant Connecticut.
I urge all state lawmakers to remember a few certain things as they prepare to vote on tolling. Do your best to drown out the rhetoric and rancor, and focus once again on what drew you to public service in the first place. Remember that every single poll shows a majority of Connecticut residents oppose tolls under any and all conditions, most often an overwhelming one. Remember how these ordinary people stayed up late after work to make homemade signs, and then stood for hours, often in the rain or cold, to speak what voice they had to power. Remember how public hearing testimony against tolls outweighed that in favor 9 to 1, and was submitted in such historic volume that it crashed the system. Remember how 18 cities and towns took steps to pass local legislation in opposition of tolling. Remember the 100,000-plus individuals who signed the No Tolls petition, and the thousands who rallied on the steps of the Capitol this past weekend. Remember that currently, without tolls, Connecticut residents already suffer the second highest tax burden in the country. Remember that this state you are entrusted to govern is entirely worthless without the heart, soul, and work ethic of these very same people. If you don’t, we certainly will remember all of you at the ballot box in the coming years.