EDITORIAL: Connecticut’s new governor turns to ‘sin taxes’ and tolls

EDITORIAL: Connecticut’s new governor turns to ‘sin taxes’ and tolls

Gov. Ned Lamont has his eye on some new taxes that will hit the average state resident in the wallet, including levies on sugary drinks, plastic bags, vaping products, sports betting and alcoholic beverage deposits. Those are all “sin taxes,” but the governor may also cancel some sales tax exemptions, of which there are a surprising number. It’s all with the aim of closing Connecticut’s chronic budget gap.

And, in fairness to the governor, what else can he do when he’s confronting a two-year deficit that’s now pegged at $3.5 billion?

Much of this red ink can be laid to the pension funds and other “heritage” costs that continue to drag the state’s finances down because they weren’t adequately dealt with by previous administrations. Together they consumed only 10 percent of the General Fund two decades ago, but now eat up about 30 percent.

Then there are highway tolls. During the campaign, Lamont was only talking about taxing those big rigs that everyone figures are wearing out our roads, but now, suddenly, all vehicles are in the crosshairs. Why? Because that’s where the money is. tolls on big rigs were projected to bring in a maximum of $200 million annually, whereas all-vehicle tolls could net the state as much as a billion dollars.

There’s also a move afoot in Hartford to extend the five-cent deposit on beverage containers to those tiny “nip” bottles of alcohol, and Meriden officials are all for it — not for health reasons, but because they have become a nuisance at the Meriden Green.

Not that raising the cost of a “nip” from, say, $1.50 to $1.55 will keep people from littering, but chances are the people who already scavenge downtown areas for deposit containers would do much to reduce the litter by harvesting the “nips” at a nickel apiece.

As for taxing sugary drinks, one justification is that there’s an epidemic of obesity in this country, most notably among children, and there is also concern about Type II diabetes. This kind of tax has been tried in a number of countries and a few places in the U.S. It may also make sense in Connecticut, since it could have a positive effect on public health and at the same time will certainly be medicine for the public purse.


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