Recently I featured the Southwick Jog, a little appendage of Massachusetts that juts into the northern tier of Connecticut. A reader brought to my attention a recent article in the Hartford Courant. The town of Southwick in Massachusetts includes the entirety of Congamond Lake within its boundaries and it intends to levy fees for docks and boats on the inhabitants of the eastern shore of the lake. Technically those residents live in Connecticut, but their docks extend into Massachusetts so Southwick considers them fair game. You can see a couple of those docks that are about to be taxed in this satellite photo to get a better understanding of the geographic layout.
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That got me thinking about other examples where politicians use geography to their advantage, and tax outsiders who cannot vote them out of office. We’re all familiar with restaurant and rental car taxes aimed at business travelers to pay for new football stadiums and stuff like that, but I think my favorite and most blatant example has to be the Delaware Border Tax. That’s not a knock on Delaware. I love Delaware; its quirky history; its sandy beaches; its award-winning breweries, and well, the inspiration for the very title of this blog, the Twelve Mile Circle. On the other hand, one has to consider the audacity and fiendishly crafty way it sucks revenue from a heavily traveled interstate corridor that’s well out of proportion to the value it adds. Much like a parasite.
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Interstate 95 is the main traffic corridor along the eastern seaboard of the United States, running nearly 2,000 miles from the Canadian border all the way down to Miami, Florida. It connects some of the most heavily urbanized areas of the country, especially in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Only 23 miles of it passes through Delaware, but you better believe they have a tollbooth waiting to collect a tribute from the millions of vehicles that transit between southerly locations such as Washington and Baltimore to more northerly locations including Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. With a peak average daily traffic of 180 thousand vehicles per day moving through the state at $4 per vehicle (for a lousy 23 miles?), and that becomes quite a windfall for Delaware.
Admittedly, Delaware found a perfect solution — for its inhabitants anyway — since the locals all know how to jump on and off the highway to avoid the toll. Toll collection from the local citizenry is statistically zero. Truly then, this is intended as a tax on interstate travel, ensnaring those who don’t know the workarounds and have no electoral recourse. Arrive at this tiny wedge and prepare to pay the Delaware Border Tax. The citizens of Delaware thank you.