- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut truckers called on state legislators Monday to create a new sales tax exemption for repairs to vehicles damaged by chemicals that the Department of Transportation uses to clear highways of ice and snow.

Mike Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association, said it is unfair for the state to collect additional tax revenue from repairs prompted by the DOT’s use of magnesium chloride. Parts and repair services on motor vehicles are subject to the 6.3 percent sales tax.

“I can’t believe the kind of damage that’s been done by the stuff,” said Riley, adding that all of his 800 member-companies have complained about damage from caustic road chemicals.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy questioned the feasibility of such a tax exemption, and said it would not be in the state’s best interest.

“I would caution that we probably don’t want to be the final guarantor of these kinds of products,” said Malloy, adding that motorists can take steps to protect their vehicles, such as coating the undercarriages.

Also, Malloy said, people can already write off the depreciated value of a commercial vehicle on their taxes to help offset the cost of any damage.

A bill still moving through this year’s legislative session would require DOT to study the chemical road treatments it uses and to analyze their corrosive effects on vehicles, infrastructure and the environment, as well as the cost of such damage. DOT also would have to study alternative techniques and products, such as rust inhibitors.

Rep. Pamela Sawyer, R-Bolton, the lawmaker who proposed the study, said she can understand why Riley is pushing for the tax exemption, considering the damage the chemicals can cause. She said auto repair shop owners have told lawmakers about how they used to replace a few brake lines a month and now replace up to 20 since Connecticut began using the chemicals.

“The increase has been exorbitant,” Sawyer said.

Since 2006, the DOT has been pre-treating the roads before a storm with a sodium chloride brine, which the department said has significantly reduced accidents on major river crossings, helped keep snow and ice from bonding to the pavement, provided plow drivers more time at the onset of a storm, reduced salt use and ensured bare pavement soon after a storm. Besides the pre-treatment, the state uses a mixture of salt and magnesium chloride to prevent snow from bonding to the road.

“Let me assure you that we have spent a lot of money this year preparing our roads and blown through our budget, quite frankly in the millions of dollars,” Malloy said.

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