Republicans are in the minority in the General Assembly, but they were able to secure enough signatures to force a public hearing on repealing the highway user fee that went into effect in January.
The Democrat-controlled Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee refused to hold a public hearing on the bill, but according to Republicans they secured 51 signatures to force the public hearing.
“Many members of the General Assembly proposed this legislation on behalf of their constituents, and the committee’s failure to raise the bill meant a large swath of Connecticut residents would be silenced,” Rep. Holly Cheeseman, said. “That’s unacceptable given the far-reaching, negative impact this tax will have on the cost of living here, and I’m thrilled my caucus colleagues joined me in petitioning to deliver a public hearing that will give everyone an opportunity to be heard on the most important issue we face—affordability.”
Rep. Maria Horn, who co-chairs the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, said she was surprised to learn of the procedural manuveur.
“As I write this, the committee is holding a hearing that concerns an exemption to the Highway Use Tax for agricultural vehicles, and it may have been enlightening, and respectful of the public’s time, to have considered both bills had I understood this earlier,” Horn said. “While I have not yet seen the petition, I will certainly honor it and will hope that we will learn something new about how to support the significant infrastructure investments we hope to make in light of unprecedented federal resources available to us that will require state matching funds.”
Republicans have been trying to repeal the fee because they say it will increase the cost of goods trucked to the state.
The state is expected to start collecting revenue from the highway user fee on Feb. 28, despite opposition from the business and trucking community.
The mileage-based fee on trucks using Connecticut highways was approved by state policymakers back in 2021 in an effort to generate ongoing revenue to support the Special Transportation Fund, which pays for the upkeep and improvement of roads and bridges.
State fiscal analysts estimated the law would raise about $90 million a year through a per-mile tax on big rig trucks which will scale with the weight of the vehicle. The fee will range from 2.5 cents per mile for trucks weighing between 26,000 and 28,000 pounds to 17.5 cents per mile for trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds.
“Before this legislation was adopted, we heard over and over from trucking company owners who warned us of the trickle-down impact of this tax, which will cause residents to pay more for basic services and goods such as groceries,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said. “Now that we’ve raised our bill, Democrats who have gotten more comfortable talking about the affordability crisis they helped create should put their money where their mouths are and encourage citizens and business owners in their districts to testify when a hearing date is set.”