Connecticut delays vote on truck-only tolls

February 3, 2020

Keith Goble

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A plan to truck-only tolls in Connecticut is having a tough time winning favor at the statehouse.

Despite assurances from the state’s majority party that there are enough votes in the General Assembly to approve truck-only tolls, the issue continues to be unsettled

Gov. Ned Lamont and leaders of his party unveiled a draft bill to raise as much as $180 million annually for transportation purposes by dipping deeper into the wallets of professional drivers.

At the call of the governor, a special session was scheduled the first week of February before the beginning of the regular session on Feb. 5. In the hours leading up to a Jan. 31 public hearing on tolls, legislative Democrats backed away from convening a special session and instead decided to take up the issue during the regular session.

Truck-only tolls plan

The 32-page legislation crafted by the majority party calls for collecting truck tolls on 12 bridges around the state. Specifically, truckers would pay between $6 and $13 per bridge. Out-of-state truckers would pay more.

Rate increases would occur at the discretion of a new transportation policy council. Members would be appointed by state lawmakers and the governor.

All toll revenue would be routed into the state’s transportation fund.

Republican opposition, alternative

Republican lawmakers are the minority party at the statehouse. They remain steadfast in their opposition to any toll plan.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, who is an attorney, is drawing attention to language in the bill that he says includes a “workaround” provision to allow the General Assembly to charge more highway users in years to come.

“This bill is the worst toll bill I have seen put forth by folks on the other side of the aisle,” Fasano said during a news conference following the hearing. “This bill gives a board that is unelected limitless power to add tolls, and limitless power to raise toll rates.”

Instead of tolls, GOP legislators are calling for tapping the state’s “rainy day” funds to cover transportation costs. Using the state’s budget reserves would allow the state to pay off pension liabilities to free up $130 million annually that could be used for transportation.

OOIDA among challengers on claims about truckers

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut are opposed to efforts to single out professional drivers to foot the bill for transportation improvements.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA manager of government affairs, previously communicated to Connecticut Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney the Association’s concerns about comments made about many professional drivers “currently paying nothing” to use the state’s roadways.

“Hopefully by now you’ve at least learned that out-of-state trucks do in fact pay for every mile they run on Connecticut highways through apportioned funds from the International Fuel Tax Agreement and the International Registration Plan,” Matousek wrote in follow-up communication with Looney.

“And let’s not forget that all truckers pay numerous other trucking-related taxes that support the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges throughout Connecticut.”

Nevertheless, Matousek added “the outcome of this misguided and disgraceful effort” appears to be a forgone conclusion.

“Any lawmaker that supports truck-only tolls should be ashamed.”

Next steps

With a special session to discuss and possibly vote on the issue no longer on the agenda, supporters are hopeful of sending the toll bill to the governor’s desk by mid-February.

Opponents are calling for additional public hearings on the issue before any possible legislative vote.

More Land Line coverage of news from Connecticut is available.

 

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.

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