OLR Research Report

March 18, 2004




By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst

You asked for the legislative purpose behind the $40 fee charged for registering vehicles that are exempt from the Connecticut emissions testing program.

Under Connecticut's new motor vehicle emissions inspection program, new vehicles are exempt from having to report for an emissions test for their first four model years from manufacture. However, when registering such a new vehicle, or any motor vehicle that is four or less model years old and has not previously been registered in Connecticut, the owner must pay a fee of $40 in addition to the applicable registration fee (CGS 14-164c(k)(3)).

The legislature was pursuing two public policy concepts in establishing the $40 fee for exempt vehicles under the new decentralized inspection system. One was that newer vehicles should be exempt from having to report for a test until they were more than four model years old. This policy concept was based on research and program statistics that showed that during their first four model years new vehicles tended to have relatively low test failure rates. New vehicles still failed emissions tests, but the failure rate was low compared to vehicles in their fifth or later year since manufacture.

The second public policy concept that related to the decision to implement the $40 fee was the legislature's desire to assure that the inspection fee under the new decentralized program would not be more than the $20 fee charged under the old centralized program. The dilemma the legislature faced was that it was authorizing a broad-based decentralized emissions inspection program involving 300 inspection locations statewide, but was eliminating a significant portion of the vehicle population from the inspection pool through the four-model year exemption. The concern expressed by some legislators was that, with the size of the fleet subject to inspection being reduced by approximately 30% because of the exemption, those people who could not afford newer inspection-exempt vehicles would have to pay significantly higher inspection fees to have sufficient funds available to run the new program.

The rationale the legislature used to marry the two public policy concepts was that, although newer vehicles tended to fail emissions tests at lower rates than older vehicles, they still failed. Even new vehicles produce some level of pollutants and as such they still contribute to the overall air quality problem, albeit in less significant proportions than older vehicles. The legislature felt that everyone who operates a motor vehicle, regardless of its age, contributes to the air quality problem in some way and therefore all vehicle operators should share some of the burden for operation of the program established to address the vehicle pollution problem. Owners of newer vehicles were afforded the benefit of not having to appear for inspections until their vehicles were more than four years old, but would still be required to help support the program so that the inspection fee for those who did not own newer vehicles could be maintained at the same level as under the prior program.