OLR Bill Analysis

HJ00100

RESOLUTION APPROVING A STATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PROTECT TRANSPORTATION FUNDS.

SUMMARY

This resolution proposes a constitutional amendment identical to RA 15-1, December Special Session, which passed the General Assembly by a majority vote but did not receive the three-fourths vote of each chamber required to place it on the 2016 general election ballot. If passed by a majority vote, this resolution will be placed on the 2018 general election ballot.

The resolution 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 funding sources that must be legally credited, deposited, or transferred to the STF on or after the amendment's effective date to 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.

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 a majority of the members 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 fuels tax, motor carrier road tax, petroleum products gross earnings tax, certain motor vehicle receipts and fees (e.g., driver's license fees), motor vehicle-related fines and penalties, and a portion of state sales tax revenue (CGS 13b-61, -61a , -61b, and 12-408(1)(L)).

By law, money in the fund 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).

Statutory “Lockbox”

By law, the STF is a perpetual fund and the use of STF funds is restricted to transportation purposes, including paying debt service on state transportation obligations. The legislature is prohibited from passing any law authorizing the use of STF funds for any purpose other than transportation (CGS 13b-68(b)). But under the principle of “legislative entrenchment,” it is unclear whether these statutory provisions are enforceable with regard to future legislatures.

Legislative entrenchment refers to one legislature statutorily restricting a future legislature's ability to enact legislation. The Connecticut Supreme Court has held that one such provision (in that case, a statute prohibiting general legislation from being included in an appropriations bill) was unenforceable, writing that “to hold otherwise would be to hold that one General Assembly could effectively control the enactment of legislation by a subsequent General Assembly. This is obviously not true, except where vested rights, protected by the constitution, have accrued under the earlier act” (Patterson v. Dempsey, 152 Conn. 431 (1965)).

Related Resolutions

SJ 5, favorably reported by the Transportation Committee, requires the legislature to use the STF only for transportation purposes.

HJ 41, favorably reported by the Transportation Committee, is nearly identical to this resolution.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

9

Nay

8

(03/27/2017)