Transportation committee hears testimony on defunding mileage tax study

On Tuesday the Transportation Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 76, which would prohibit Gov. Dannel Malloy from spending $300,000 to study the effects and possible implementation of a mileage tax.

The mileage tax would tax residents based on the number of miles they drive. Connecticut is one of five states participating in the study but is contributing the most money.

The idea of a mileage tax has been wildly unpopular with the public and both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature say there is no way the proposal, were it to come up, would pass.

However, Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D- Newington, defended the study saying that the state should consider all options and that the gas tax is insufficient to support Connecticut infrastructure projects.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in this room that will disagree that the gas tax we have in place is not working right now,” Guerrera said. “We have to come together to decide what the best route to be used to fix our roads and bridges.”

The mileage tax would be in addition to the Connecticut gas tax which goes to into the Special Transportation Fund used to pay for infrastructure projects in the state.

Revenue from the gas tax has been declining in recent years due to lower fuel consumption and more fuel-efficient vehicles. This reduction in revenue has left lawmakers looking for other tax sources.

Senate bill 76 was proposed by Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, and has already sparked some partisan bickering between Republicans and Democrats. Suzio has proposed using the $300,000 to help fund funerals for veterans. Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, accused Suzio of wanting to “generate hysteria.”

The study is being conducted on behalf of the I-95 Corridor Coalition – a group of 16 states along the Atlantic seaboard. Connecticut is one of five states participating in the study but is contributing the most money.

Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, previously pointed out that because Connecticut is part of the I-95 Corridor Coalition it would receive the mileage tax study anyway, regardless of paying for it.

It is not known how the state would monitor mileage for drivers, whether through some kind of GPS monitoring system or drivers reporting their odometer readings.

It also remains to be seen how such a tax would apply to Connecticut residents who drive out of state or residents of other states passing through.

The idea of a mileage tax remains very unpopular, both in the public and in the state legislature, but some lawmakers still consider the study necessary so they can review and consider the information.

In testimony before the regarding the mileage tax study, Connecticut resident Dan Thurston said “if this were a good idea, one would not have to figure out how to pitch the program,” drawing laughter from the crowd and committee members.

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