WASHINGTON - Two lawsuits in federal courts seeking class action status that claim it's illegal for tolling authorities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to discount tolls for certain residents and not others could spell trouble for toll-backed muni bonds and potentially affect issuers in other states, some market participants said.

Debt service payments could be affected if the lawsuits - which claim residence-based toll discounts are discriminatory - are successful and issuers are forced to pay class members, who do not get the discounts, the difference between the tolls they paid over the resident rate. But the effect of these cases on bonds will depend on other factors as well, including the diversity of the tolling properties from which issuers get their revenue, they said.

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