Ranked among the worst states for taxes and business, Rhode Island recently took a wrong turn by leveling truck-only tolls and now neighboring Connecticut may follow them down this unfortunate road.
But targeting the trucking industry should come as no surprise. Rhode Island and Connecticut continually rank at or near the bottom in places to do business. Failed policies, wasteful use of hard-earned taxpayer money and a lack of long-term economic leadership put these two New England states behind the eight ball year after year.
Rather than fix their inherently broken systems, politicians look for quick fixes such as truck-only tolls that exacerbate problems for residents. Both Connecticut and Rhode Island suffer unemployment above the national average and rank 42nd and 43rd in business climate respectively, according to Forbes.
Rhode Island, the first state to level an unfair truck-only toll on Interstate 95 in June 2018, ranks in the bottom 10 percent in business costs, regulatory environment, economic climate, and growth prospects according to the business magazine. Connecticut suffers bottom 10 rankings in the exact same categories.
The inherently business unfriendly environments are only made worse by now targeting hardworking men and women in the freight industry. Many organizations are vehemently opposed to the expansion of truck tolls in Rhode Island and into Connecticut.
Connecticut Poised to Level Tolls Against Truckers
Debates leading up to the mid-term elections saw candidates clash over a truck-only money grab in Connecticut. But the apparent front-runner for governor and others favor taxing trucks. The political climate in Hartford, CT, may implement another shortsighted tax-and-spend program at the trucking industry’s expense.
Democrat candidate Ned Lamont went beyond the possible tolls being just a revenue issue. Lamont accused the trucking industry for the poor conditions of the state’s roads as well.
“We should focus on the big, out-of-state tractor-trailer trucks that are coming through our state,” Lamont was quoted in the Connecticut Post following a debate. “They’re the ones that are destroying our roads.”
The gubernatorial candidate was happy to roll out a plan to hit out-of-state tractor trailers. With the same shortsighted attitude about business that outgoing Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy demonstrated, Lamont reportedly said the move would shift traffic to trains.
His plan sought to take upwards of $100 million annually from the trucking industry. Lost on Lamont is the fact that trucks reportedly pay between $26 and $35 million in Connecticut taxes annually. Gov. Malloy, also an advocate of truck-only tolls, exits the political stage leaving Connecticut in significant debt.
Rhode Island and Connecticut Suffer Self-Inflicted Debt
According to sources such as the Reuters news agency, Connecticut is drowning in debt. The state is currently suffering a shortfall of approximately $3.5 billion over the next two fiscal years.
Despite boasting some of the richest American residents, excessive taxation has resulted in wealthy people migrating to tax-friendly states. With lower tax revenues unable to keep pace with spending, Connecticut now suffers a $50 billion unfunded pension liability crisis.
Rhode Island also has a history of horrific economic management. In the 1990s, the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation closed 45 credit unions due to embezzlement. With state-run oversight, the credit unions failed to purchase federal insurance and upwards of 300,000 residents were unable to recoup their savings for years. Poor financial management is a sickness that plagues the union’s smallest state. Rhode Island reportedly carries an unfunded pension liability of more than $21 billion.
These days, Connecticut’s capital city of Hartford is considering bankruptcy. Trying to reach into the pockets of the trucking industry mirrors the bad business thinking that got Connecticut into this economic crisis in the first place. Fortunately, many industry proponents, including the American Trucking Associations (ATA), are pushing back.
ATA Lawsuit Against Rhode Island Could Deter Connecticut
Discriminating against working-class people such as truckers with targeted tolls is both un-American and likely unconstitutional. That’s why the ATA and at least three trucking-oriented companies were quick to file a federal lawsuit against Rhode Island.
“Since RhodeWorks was first proposed, the trucking industry has been strong and united in opposition to this extortionate plan. We’ve warned politicians in Rhode Island that these truck-only tolls were unconstitutional and should be rolled back,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear reportedly said. “It is unfortunate that Governor Raimondo and her administration did not heed those warnings, but now we will see them in court.”
Rhode Island’s transportation director Petr Alviti has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit and avoid a showdown with the ATA. He appears to claim the court lacks jurisdiction over the issue. The argument fell on deaf ears with the ATA.
“Rhode Island’s motion does not attempt to refute the argument that the RhodeWorks toll scheme discriminates against the trucking industry,” an ATA spokesman reportedly said. “We look forward to our day in court and demonstrating that this financing scheme is not only harmful to our industry and to the economy of Rhode Island but that it is also unconstitutional.”
Getting fundamentally fair treatment from states such as Rhode Island and Connecticut is not only crucial to truckers, but to all working-class Americans. These states continue to the squander tax money of hard-working residents. The budget shortfalls of business unfriendly states are self-inflicted economic wounds and not the trucking industry’s fault. Hopefully, the lawsuits supported by the ATA and private trucking companies will deter Connecticut and others from discriminating against truckers.