Farmers are appealing to lawmakers to exempt their vehicles from a yet-to-be-implemented highway user fee or tax on the miles they drive. The state is expected to raise $90 million from the fee or tax once it goes into effect and the money will go to help fund transportation infrastructure.

The call prompted a bigger discussion about the surplus in the Special Transportation Fund and whether the state still needs to implement the tax.

There’s currently a $500 million surplus in the Special Transportation Fund. At least $90 million of that will be used to fund the gas tax holiday lawmakers planned to approve Wednesday. But that leaves $410 million.

House Democratic leadership dismissed the idea of getting rid of the highway fee, which applies to large trucks and was adopted by the legislature last year.

Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, called the fee affordable when compared to fees levied by nearby states. Scanlon said it costs $125 for a truck to cross the George Washington Bridge, one-way.

During a press availability in his state Capitol office, House Speaker Matt Ritter said he had “no interest in repealing it.”

Carving out agricultural vehicles from the highway user tax would cost the state about $25 million. In a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders, Connecticut Farm Bureau executive director Joan Nichols said the change would help an industry facing rising costs.

Republicans offered an amendment last year to the highway user fee bill that would have exempted all agricultural vehicles, but the amendment was defeated by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Republican lawmakers say Democratic lawmakers who voted for the tax were being hypocrites. Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said nothing has changed between last year and this year.

He said the highway user fee wasn’t necessary.

“The budget was balanced,” Kelly said. “It remains balanced” without this tax. 

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said they proposed legislation to eliminate the tax, but Democrats have refused to raise the bill for a public hearing.

The Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC) said it should be repealed for all vehicles.

“Any push to exempt certain things, such as agricultural commodities, is a direct admission that the HUT raises prices for Connecticut businesses and consumers. It’s an admission that the HUT will exacerbate inflation,” Joe Sculley, president of the MTAC, said. “That’s why the whole thing should be eliminated in its entirety.”