OLR Bill Analysis

HJ 1

RESOLUTION PROPOSING A STATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PROTECT THE RESOURCES OF THE SPECIAL TRANSPORTATION FUND.

SUMMARY:

This resolution proposes a constitutional amendment that does the following:

1. maintains the Special Transportation Fund (STF) as a perpetual fund;

2. requires the legislature to use the STF solely for transportation purposes, including paying debt service on state obligations incurred for those purposes;

3. requires that STF funding sources (“sources of funds, money, and receipts”) that must be legally credited, deposited, or transferred to the STF on or after the amendment's effective date be credited, deposited, or transferred to the STF as long as state law authorizes the state, or any of its officers, to collect or receive those sources; and

4. prohibits the legislature from enacting a law authorizing the spending of STF funds for any purpose other than transportation and the payment of debt service on obligations incurred for transportation purposes.

The resolution does not define “sources of funds, money, and receipts,” or “transportation purposes.” By law, sources of revenue directed to the STF include the motor vehicle fuels tax, motor vehicle receipts and fees, and a portion of the sales and use tax. Existing law also specifies how STF funds must be spent (see BACKGROUND).

The ballot designation to be used when the amendment is presented at the general election is “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to ensure (1) that all moneys contained in the Special Transportation Fund be used solely for transportation purposes, including the payment of debts of the state incurred for transportation purposes, and (2) that sources of funds deposited in the Special Transportation Fund be deposited in said fund so long as such sources are authorized by statute to be collected or received by the state?”

EFFECTIVE DATE: If the resolution passes by at least three-fourths of the membership of each house of the General Assembly, it will be placed on the 2016 general election ballot. If it passes by a majority of the members of each house but less than three-fourths, it will be referred to the 2017 session of the legislature. If it passes in that session by a majority of each house, it will appear on the 2018 general election ballot. If a majority of those voting in the general election approves the amendment, it will become part of the state constitution.

BACKGROUND

Special Transportation Fund

By law, the STF pays for state highway and public transportation projects. It is supported by a number of revenue streams, including the motor vehicle fuels tax, motor carrier road tax, petroleum products gross earnings tax, certain motor vehicle receipts and fees (e.g., driver's license fees), and motor vehicle-related fines and penalties (CGS 13b-61 et seq.). In addition, PA 15-244; PA 15-5, June Special Session (JSS); and PA 15-1, December Special Session (DSS), require the revenue services commissioner to direct a portion of sales tax revenue to the STF beginning in FY 16.

By law, money in the STF must be used first for debt service on special tax obligation bonds and to pay for certain transportation projects. Remaining funds must be used to pay for (1) general obligation bonds issued for transportation projects, (2) budget appropriations for the departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles, (3) Department of Energy and Environmental Protection boating regulation and enforcement, and (4) the Department of Social Services' transportation for employment independence program (CGS 13b-69, as amended by PA 15-5, JSS).

By law, the STF is a perpetual fund, the resources of which must be spent only for transportation purposes, including paying debt service on state transportation obligations. Existing law contains language similar to that in the proposed resolution, requiring that all sources of funds to the STF continue to be deposited in the STF as long as the state collects them, and prohibiting the legislature from enacting any law authorizing STF resources to be spent for any purpose other than transportation (CGS 13b-68 (b)). Under the principle of “legislative entrenchment” it is unclear whether this statutory provision is enforceable on future legislatures. The Connecticut Supreme Court has held that a legislature cannot statutorily restrict a future legislature's ability to enact legislation (Patterson v. Dempsey, 152 Conn. 431 (1965)).

Related Resolution

Resolution Act (RA) 15-1, DSS, contains language nearly identical to this resolution. RA 15-1, DSS, will be referred to the 2017 session of the legislature. If it passes in that session by a majority of each house, it will appear on the 2018 general election ballot. If a majority of those voting in the general election approve the amendment, it will become part of the state constitution.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

22

Nay

11

(03/15/2016)