Malloy to pay $300,000 for free mileage tax study

Connecticut has pledged $300,000 to study the possibility of a mileage tax but, according to Representative Gail Lavielle, the money is wasted because the state would get the results of the study regardless of any cash commitment from Governor Malloy and the Department of Transportation.

Connecticut is part of the I-95 Corridor Coalition, which consists of 16 states along the Atlantic seaboard. Connecticut would receive the results of the pilot study regardless of its cash contribution because the results are shared with all members of the coalition. In all, eleven states are contributing no funds to the study but will still have access to the findings. “Why Connecticut has to be a leader is beyond me,” Lavielle said in an interview.

As a member of the appropriations sub-committee on transportation, Lavielle sent a letter to the Department of Transportation commissioner James Redeker questioning why the executive branch moved ahead with these plans without consulting anyone in the legislature.

“It’s a total executive branch thing and they elected not to tell any of us about it,” Lavielle said. “I think it’s Malloy trying to get an appointment with Hillary.”

Although the grant application says that “none of the participating states are facing any legislative or executive obstacles,” Connecticut legislators on both sides of the aisle have rejected the idea of a mileage tax. Senate Majority leader Len Fasano said the bill would be “dead on arrival,” and the Senate Democrats announced they are “strongly opposed to any mileage tax.”

Four other states – Vermont, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire – are participating but Connecticut is contributing the most cash. Vermont committed only $30,000 for a limited analysis.

The grant application states that revenue from gasoline-based taxes is not keeping up with the cost of infrastructure and operational needs of the roadways. This is due, in part, to greater fuel efficiency and the fact that the federal government has not increased its fuel tax since 1993.

The funding gap can only be expected to grow, according to the grant application, and therefore the government must find an alternative tax to pay for transportation costs.

Mileage monitoring also brings up privacy concerns. The mileage study will look at several different methods to measure driver’s mileage including GPS monitoring through smartphones or a mileage device installed on the vehicle. The grant includes a diagram showing how a mileage device could be installed in a vehicle.

Merely reporting odometer changes could include travel in and through other states. If an individual commutes to either New York or Massachusetts there would have to be some method for determining which miles were driven in which state. “It’s terribly complicated and controversial and could invade privacy,” Lavielle said.

However, she notes, actual implementation would be many years and several more studies in the future. For now, the $300,000 commitment to the study is enough to cause discontent among lawmakers and the public.

“We can’t afford this,” Lavielle said. “It’s in bad faith and the taxpayers don’t want it.”

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Marc E. Fitch

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