The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee briefly debated a bill Tuesday that would change how motorcycles are taxed.
But increasing the tax rate on motorcycles and mufflers that exceed the maximum allowable decibel level is not the controversial part of the bill. The second half of the bill would require residents with multiple vehicles to only pay the $5 Passport to the Parks fee with their registration on one vehicle — cutting the amount of revenue for state parks in half.
The Passport to the Parks program was created in 2018. It collects $5 per year from every vehicle when the vehicle is registered. Residents then get to drive into any state park without paying a fee, while the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection gets the funding to keep the parks open.
Eric Hammerling of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association said before the $5 Passport program, residents had to pay $13 to park at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, so the new program is a bargain for anyone who uses the state parks and beaches on a regular basis. He said state park usage has gone up during the pandemic and cutting the funding in half would be detrimental to the program.
“It’s been a tremendously successful program and we want to make sure it stays intact and does what it’s supposed to do, which is pay for the operations of our state parks,” Hammerling said.
The legislation means people who own multiple cars would not have to pay the fee on their second vehicle.
“That might sound like an interesting concept but it would be devastating to the funding available to operate and maintain state parks,” Hammerling said.
He said the state average vehicle ownership is two vehicles per household, which would mean a 50% cut to the program.
The bill was proposed by Sen. John Fonfara of Hartford. Fonfara did not return a call for comment so it’s unknown exactly why he proposed it.
Hammerling said he has no opinion on the other portion of the bill regarding motorcycles. He’s only interested in section 10, which would limit funding for state parks.
All the written testimony on the legislation was in opposition. The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee has until April 22 to vote it out of committee.