A Connecticut trucking association is weighing its legal options when it comes to the state’s highway use tax.
The tax, which went into effect at the start of the new year, applies to commercial vehicles that carry a classification of Class 8 through Class 13. Fees are calculated based on the vehicle’s weight and number of miles driven in the state and range from 2.5 cents per mile for vehicles weighing 26,000 to 28,000 pounds to 17.5 cents per mile for trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds.
The Motor Transport Association of Connecticut has been vocal regarding its opposition to the new tax, repeatedly calling upon state lawmakers to repeal the law.
John Blair, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, told CT Insider he thinks it’s unlikely the General Assembly will make any changes to the new law, such as repeal or delay it. That has left the group weighing all its options.
“If we can’t find a legislative or regulatory remedy, then at that point, all bets are off and we need to look at all avenues for redress,” Blair said. “We are assessing whether or not there’s a legal remedy that we could seek if we’re not going to get a legislative or regulatory remedy.”
Among the options, Blair says the group is considering working with the American Trucking Association and their attorneys to file suit against the state. ATA’s legal team has experience with similar cases, after successfully arguing that Rhode Island’s truck-only tolls were unconstitutional. While those past successes give Blair hope, he knows there likely won’t be a speedy resolution.
“We believe there is a good case to take, so ultimately that might be the path we have to take. And that’s going to take a couple years,” Blair told Land Line Now. “It’s frustrating that they don’t see it at this point, maybe pull back a little bit, and then reassess down the line if this is actually needed.”
The tax, which is estimated to generate $45 million in its first year and up to $90 million each subsequent year, is intended to help fund improvements to the state’s aging infrastructure.
However, the trucking group contends that when the bill was passed the state’s financial situation was much different. With the passage of the 2021 federal infrastructure bill came an influx of $5.38 billion in federal funding. The group says the state was unaware these funds would be coming its way when the highway use tax was approved, and Connecticut’s Special Transportation Fund budget will now run in surplus for the foreseeable future.
Despite these arguments, Gov. Ned Lamont and others claim the state needs dedicated revenue streams – like the highway use tax – to maintain Connecticut’s bond rating.
“I think the governor didn’t get what he wanted out of tolls the first time around, so he wants to say he accomplished something with regards to tolls and with regards to infrastructure dollars. And this was his way of getting it,” Blair told Land Line Now. “We think it’s ill-conceived. It shows that it’s ill-conceived because the implementation of it has been very junky. There has been a lot of issues with the way they put the law together and it shows they don’t know the industry.
As the state presses forward with the fee, Connecticut’s Department of Revenue Services is tasked with assisting carriers through the registration and compliance process. According to the agency, several thousand drivers have already registered to pay the new tax. The first payment is due by Feb. 28. LL