Republican lawmakers thanked the public Wednesday for rallying around the issue of capping the second of Connecticut’s two gasoline taxes.
Earlier this week Democratic lawmakers “finally yielded” by agreeing to cap the gasoline gross receipts tax when the wholesale price reaches $3. The Democratic announcement came two days before today’s Republican rally.
Since February, a key Democratic lawmaker had repeatedly said capping the tax as proposed by Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, would only benefit big oil companies and not consumers.
Suzio said when he first initiated the drive to cap the gross receipts tax he was told “forget it.”
“No way the Democrat party would ever vote to cap a tax with no limit to it,” Suzio said.
But that’s exactly what happened earlier this week.
Democratic lawmakers, all of whom are up for reelection this fall, seemed to warm to the idea of capping the tax. However, they insisted it last just one year. Under the Democratic proposal, the cap would expire June 30, 2013, a day before the gross receipts tax would increase from 7.53 percent to 8.81 percent.
If the $3 cap is enacted the tax would be capped at about 22 cents per gallon, which means based on today’s wholesale price of $3.18 per gallon motorists would save about 1.3 cents per gallon, according to the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association.
For every penny of tax collected under the tax the state sees about $15 million in revenue, Suzio said.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said he “admired the Democrats for admitting they were wrong and changing their mind.”
But he urged them to act quickly. He said it merits an emergency certified bill, which is a bill that doesn’t have to go through the committee process and can be fast tracked to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote.
“The longer they wait the more taxes people in the state of Connecticut are going to have to pay,” McKinney said.
Cafero said the general public doesn’t give a “damn” about politics they just want to see relief at the pump.
Republicans went one step further than Democrats and said they would like to see a permanent cap on the gross receipts tax. They said they would be willing to make the requisite spending cuts in order to achieve balance in the state budget.
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said Monday that if the legislature doesn’t cap the tax now and the price of a gallon of gas does go to $5 or more it’s going to hurt Connecticut’s economy and make it that much more difficult to balance the budget in the future because “revenues will have stagnated as a result.”
“That’s why we need to do everything we can to keep Connecticut on this slow and steady recovery,” Williams said. “And that will increase our bottom line and state revenues.”
Democratic lawmakers who are in the majority remain undecided about how they will bring forward the proposal.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday that if gas tax relief is produced by the legislature it will be because Democrats did it.
Malloy remained confident capping the tax now won’t create a hole in his future budgets.