HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A new twist in the road over highway tolls as the House Democratic leadership says tolling cars is now off the table.
The Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) and the House Majority Leader, Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) saying that they will only support tolls on trucks and only at 12 bridges around the state.
The House Democratic leaders saying the new ‘trucks only’ tolls plan avoids the potential legal challenges that the Governor’s original ‘trucks only’ plan by just placing the tolls on select bridges.
It also avoids the public distaste for collecting tolls from passenger cars. The plan removes the Governor’s proposed tolls on the parkway and on Route 9 in Middletown. Route 9 carries limited truck traffic and trucks are not allowed on the parkway.
The House Democrats’ plan would make the ‘trucks only’ tolls on select bridges permanent and is projected to raise about $150 million a year.
The belief is that, because it’s only on interstate bridges, it would survive any potential legal challenges.
The House leaders say this should now open the door to bipartisan negotiations.
“So now we have the Governor’s original proposal and the work that he’s done, we have Senator Fasano’s, the Speaker and I have put our alternative out there and I think we have, hopefully, the beginnings of a compromise.
We can vote and pass, shore up our transportation fund and make the investment we need to do in the state.”– Majority Leader, Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford)
The Governor issuing a statement regarding the new proposal, saying he appreciates the House Democrats’ “thoughtful contribution to the discussion about Connecticut’s economic future.”
“I am appreciative of House Democrats’ thoughtful contribution to the discussion about Connecticut’s economic future and the critical need for investment in our transportation system.
Given this addition to the conversation, the plan from Senate Republicans presented last week, and a reported plan forthcoming from House Republicans, I am recommending that all caucuses be prepared to bring these proposals to a meeting in my office as soon as possible.
Connecticut’s economic success is vital to our state’s future and this discussion should be had with all caucuses dedicated to creating a solution.”– Governor Ned Lamont (CT-D)
A guiding principle of CT2030 is a dedicated revenue stream, which in large part comes from out-of-state drivers. This proposal adheres to that basic principle, albeit to a lesser extent, but is a concept that the governor has explored in the past and one that should be considered among the other plans.
Joe Scully of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut also issuing a statement about Tuesday’s proposal, saying, “The claim that trucks do 80% of the damage to our roads and bridges is a made up number.”
“There is no data to support that statement. In fact, the Federal Bridge Formula ensures that a truck cannot inherently damage a road or a bridge. In short, the bridge formula requires that a truck’s gross weight is distributed over a certain number of axles, which must be appropriately spaced, over a specified length of the truck or tractor-trailer combination.”– Joe Scully of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut
Sculley also questioned claims that this plan would avoid legal peril, citing “the basis of the industry’s lawsuit in Rhode Island.
“Bridge tolls on trucks only is exactly the basis of the industry’s lawsuit in Rhode Island. That case is still pending, with the latest action being that the State of Rhode Island was grilled in a federal court.
Does the State of Connecticut want to waste even more time and money on something that may not be legal?”– Joe Scully of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut
Sculley commented on Majority Leader Ritter’s statement in a November 19 press conference that any legislature can do anything it wants, by saying “that would include voting to apply the tolls to cars once the expensive gantries are set up.”
Sculley referenced a litany of taxes and fees paid by the commercial trucking industry but not by cars, including the federal excise tax, federal tire tax, heavy vehicle use tax, Unified Carrier Registration Agreement fees, among others.
Sculley concluded that out-of-state trucks do not travel through Connecticut tax-free; in recent years, Connecticut has collected about $25 to $30 million annually from out-of-state trucks through the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA), and the International Registration Program (IRP). Additionally, the trucking industry in Connecticut pays 32% of all road taxes owed by CT motorists, even though the industry accounts for only 5% of vehicle miles traveled in the state.