Republican lawmakers reiterated Tuesday that they want another special session to cap one of the state’s two gas taxes and are circulating a petition to build Democratic support for the initiative. Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she likes that idea, since she proposed it two years ago.
So could the cap be included in her call for a special session to address the projected state surplus?
“It could always be considered,” Rell said at a press conference Tuesday.
However, the legislature’s Democratic majority has yet to warm up to the idea of capping the gas tax. And while Democrats seemed amenable to dedicating the $22.3 million projected state surplus to a fund that will help residents pay for home heating oil, Democratic leaders weren’t sure Tuesday that a special session would be necessary.
Earlier Tuesday, Rell said that if the legislature doesn’t reconvene to address the surplus, the extra $22.3 million will automatically go into the Rainy Day fund on Aug. 31.
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said “maybe it will take a special session,” but that Republicans have to stop the “drumbeat” of election year “gimmicks” like capping the gasoline gross receipts tax.
Speaker of the House James Amann, D-Milford, said he would be open to discussion of using the projected surplus for home heating help. “I don’t think any of us has ruled that out,” he said. But he doesn’t want to cap the gasoline gross receipts tax because it’s the only tax producing revenue for the state, which is still facing a $150 million budget deficit in 2009.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney released a statement today pointing out several problems with the gross receipts tax, and how nearly 60 percent of its revenue is being used to “feed a bloated and growing state bureaucracy” rather than transportation improvements—the original impetus for the tax. Click here to read for McKinney’s statement.
Democratic leaders said they want to see Rell use the state’s credit card to approve $5 million in bonding to address the looming “home heating crisis.” Democrats said they want to give a $500 rebate to residents who spend $2,000 to $5,000 to replace their furnace with a more energy efficient model (such as the Natural Gas model picture). The rebate program was approved by the legislature in 2007, but must be placed by the governor on the state Bond Commission agenda for final approval.
Rell’s spokesman said Tuesday afternoon that the $5 million for the rebate program already is on the state Bond Commission agenda for August.
Williams and Amann both said their decision to go into a special session to address the use of the projected state surplus isn’t contingent on Rell’s approval of the $5 million at the August Bond Commission meeting.
But no one pointed out that only the General Assembly has the ability to call itself into a special session to address what Rell wants, and only Rell has the ability to control the bond agenda to give Democrats what they want. Republicans are still hoping there is enough public pressure on the gas tax to get rank-and-file Democrats to add the cap to the call of a special session.