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In his recent budget address, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont proposed a mileage-based fee on tractor-trailers estimated to raise $90 million annually.
Lamont delivered his biennial budget address, which takes into account fiscal 2022-2023, on Feb. 10. The mileage fee would apply only to heavy trucks, which can cause damage to infrastructure, he said.
Besides the mileage fee on trucks, Lamont also proposed joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program alongside neighboring states Rhode Island and Massachusetts. According to Lamont, participation in the initiative would reduce carbon emissions and raise more than $80 million for climate change and public transit investment.
“With these two alternatives, we can maintain our project schedule to keep or bring our roads and bridges up to a state of good repair and speed up your commute,” Lamont said.
Motor Transport Association of Connecticut President Joseph Sculley expressed opposition to the mileage fee, noting the Connecticut trucking industry already pays $301 million annually in state and federal taxes. He also said the proposed mileage fee would affect in-state businesses, while out-of-state fleets would be able to evade it.
“The workers in an industry that [Lamont] himself declared essential have been among the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing vaccines, medications, hospital equipment and groceries to locations all across the state,” Sculley said. “Now, the governor wants to reward them by assessing a discriminatory new tax. Rather than targeting the industry, the governor should simply thank truckers for their role in surviving the pandemic and leave us alone.”
Guess who wants to tax the people that are bringing COVID treatments to pharmacies? pic.twitter.com/un3NrgccVi— Joe Sculley (@JRS_CT) February 10, 2021
Transportation funding has been a source of contention in Connecticut for the past couple of years. Lamont had proposed trucks-only tolls, which he stopped pushing for in February 2020 after repeated delays from lawmakers to convene for a vote.
Rhode Island maintains a trucks-only tolling system, which the industry continues to fight in court.
Donald Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, identified two big problems Lamont faces in terms of transportation. He said the first is a $400 million-per-year deficit just to maintain a state of good repair for the existing transportation system. The second challenge is the Special Transportation Fund, which faces a deficit over the next three years and will be insolvent in 2024. (Separate from the General Fund, the Special Transportation Fund is dedicated to transportation purposes.)
Shubert expressed doubt over whether the mileage fee on trucks will generate sufficient funds to address these problems.
“I’m not sure it’s going to bring in enough revenue to address the shortfall just to maintain the systems we have in Connecticut,” Shubert told Transport Topics. “I think there needs to be a serious discussion in Connecticut on net new revenues. Our Special Transportation Fund’s in trouble and our transportation systems are falling apart.”
Lamont’s budget address was delivered less than a month after the Connecticut Department of Transportation released its $9.7 billion capital plan, which covers fiscal 2021-25. Over the five-year plan, $5.9 billion will support highway and bridge projects, $3.5 billion will go toward public transportation and $245 million will be directed to other facilities.
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