For Whom the Toll Tolls, II

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” Monroe County, Florida’s, commissioners said about adding a toll on U.S. 1 into the Keys.

“Some statutes have changed, tolling mechanisms have changed, a lot of things have changed,” Commissioner Heather Carruthers of Key Weird told the Keynoter. 18-Mile StretchShe introduced a resolution to explore the logistical and legal aspects of a toll at the board meeting on Wednesday. Commissioners endorsed the resolution on a voice vote.

Ms. Carruthers says there are a lot of big-ticket items looming for the Keys and their only recourse is to raise new, um, revenues.

That’s kind of refreshing. Most politicians promise to cut spending when they raise taxes. Our commishes make no such false promises.

Still, riiiight.

In For Whom the Toll Tolls we noted that Monroe County already collects about $700,000 in tolls each year on the Card Sound Bridge and spends about five times that much to keep the bridge up. They are in the midst now of a $2 million “upgrade” to change over from human toll collectors to the Sunpass system.

We can guess that they would install the border crossing^H^H toll booth on a wide spot in the 18-mile stretch that connects Florida City with Key Largo.

FDOT Florida Traffic Online shows 20,500 vehicles traversed the 18-mile stretch on an average day in 2016. At a buck a car (more for boat trailers and 18-wheelers bringing beer) that’s an easy $7.5 million. Ka-ching!

It would cost my neighbor Joe a couple of bucks more to go the Cleveland Clinic.

It would cost Rosie Martin a couple of bucks more to come to work. Rosie is a cashier at Kmart in Marathon. Like many store employees who work in the Keys, she can’t afford to live in the Keys so she commutes from Homestead.

It would cost the Borden Dairy delivery driver more than a couple of bucks extra to get to Walgreens with a truckload of milk. Guess where I get my milk?

And it would cost every tourist a couple of bucks more to visit.

A record 5,466,937 million visitors traveled to the Florida Keys in 2015. About one million of them were day trippers.

What do you bet the toll will have to be two bucks or more?

What do you bet the toll will cut the number of day visitors in half?

I have to put a new roof on my little house, rebuild my seawall, buy flood and wind and fire insurance, and build the not-so-Perfect-Travel-Trailer. A new toll will raise the prices on every bit of material that goes into each of those projects.

I can’t raise taxes or charge a toll on my driveway to cover those looming “big-ticket items.” I guarantee I can’t do them all in a single year, either. Imagine that.


Protective Nanny or Protectionism?

SWMBO grew up in Wisconsin where they would put her in jail for selling a homemade cookie. I’m eating one of her oatmeal cookies right now and am here to tell you that law would have deprived her neighbors from heaven on a plate.

Factory CookiesRufus has always called her “Cookie Lady.”

Wisconsin is one of just two states to ban the sale of home-baked goods (New Jersey is the only other). If SWMBO were to sell her brownies or cookies or muffins from her own kitchen to the public there, she could go to jail.

The Wisconsin law requires bakers to buy a license. The license requires a commercial kitchen, health inspections and, of course, fees. Cottage Food laws or regulations generally include some form of kitchen inspection, a zoning permit, a business license, restriction on pets, and more.

“Protecting other businesses from competition is not a legitimate government interest.”

Wisconsin’s commercial bakers claim the ban evens the playing field for the licensed businesses by removing the unfair advantage for home-based cooks. Still, the state allows the sale of other homemade foods such as jams and canned goods, all made on regular stoves, so I’m thinking state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos puts homemade jam on his muffins.

Worthy of note, Wisconsin and New Jersey are not the only states with “Cottage Food Laws.” Many states require some form of kitchen inspection, a zoning permit, a business license, and restrict pets if you home bake cakes, cookies, pies, and breads, make jams and jellies, popcorn or candies, and more.
Vermont banned brownies to turn kids on to kale and gluten-free paleo lemon bars.
New York City‘s public schools allow PTAs to hold fundraisers that include homemade baked goods only “once a month or weekdays after 6 p.m.”

Delicious news: three Wisconsin farm women challenged that state’s law last year. A LaFayette County judge sweetly overturned the law last month after the women’s attorney argued that the state Supreme Court has ruled that “protecting other businesses from competition is not a legitimate government interest.”

In his oral ruling, the judge said that the ban mainly served business interests.

Naturally, the Department of Justice says the state is considering an appeal.