Trucks at a Connecticut rest area (CTNewsJunkie file photo) Credit: Staff / CTNewsJunkie

Under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Ned Lamont, the state will impose a new mileage-based fee on tractor-trailer trucks using Connecticut highways beginning in January 2023.

In an effort to support the state’s struggling Special Transportation Fund, the new law will assess a per-mile tax on big rig trucks which will scale with the weight of the vehicle. On the low end, the fee will be 2.5 cents per mile for trucks weighing between 26,000 and 28,000 pounds. The fee will scale as high as 17.5 cents per mile for trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds. 

State fiscal analysts expect the mileage tax to raise around $90 million a year, although revenues may be reduced somewhat due to a change approved by lawmakers that exempts some trucks transporting milk. 

During a floor debate last month in the House, Rep. Sean Scanlon, a Guilford Democrat who is co-chair of the Finance Committee, said the bill asked large truck operations to chip in to finance road repair. 

“We’re asking them to pay a small fraction on behalf of the wear and tear that they do so that we can make sure that our roads and bridges are not just in a state of good repair but that we actually can do the kind of investments that we need to do to improve our economy and grow our state,” Scanlon said in June.

However, on Tuesday Joe Sculley, head of the Motor Transport Association of CT, said comparable policies in other states have failed because they are difficult to enforce. 

“You’re going to have out-of-state trucking companies either knowingly or unknowingly not pay it,” Sculley said. “That’s why it’s going to fail. We’re not going to get the money. The state is not going to get the tax revenue that they think they are and that’s going to cause a whole host of problems.”

The new law leaves enforcement of the fee to the Department of Revenue Services and gives the agency discretion to impose record retention policies on trucking companies as well as financial penalties for deficient payments.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly released as statement Tuesday saying the extra costs resulting from the fee would be passed on to consumers of every good transported by trucks in Connecticut.

“It’s no surprise that Gov. Lamont signed this damaging tax into law with little fanfare,” Kelly said.

As of Monday, Lamont had signed 210 bills passed by the legislature this year and vetoed one. His signature on the truck tax legislation comes almost three weeks after he signed the state operating budget, which includes most of the other tax and spending policies for the next two years. In an unusual move, the new highway fee was passed through a separate bill — broken out of the overall budget. 

Legislative leaders agreed to pass the highway fee separately to make the budget package, which otherwise contained no significant new taxes, more palatable for Republicans. The legislature then passed the budget on a bipartisan vote and the highway bill largely on party lines. 

However, not all lawmakers were willing to accept the separation of the highway fee from the rest of the budget. During a debate in the House, Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, called it an “absolute sham.”

“[T]his bill, which was negotiated out of the budget so that we could actually fulfill the promise of no new taxes, makes a liar out of all of us,” Bolinsky said.