Despite a last-minute petition drive to stop the gas tax increase by lawmakers who voted for it back in 2005, the state’s petroleum gross receipts tax went up about 4 cents today along with diesel fuel taxes, which went up 3.7 cents per gallon. In total, the two increases in taxes are expected to bring in about $60 million a year.
But to add insult to injury not all of the money collected will go to improve Connecticut’s aging roads and bridges. There are currently at least $10 billion in projects on the Department of Transportation’s Unfundables list.
On one hand, the budget dedicates an extra $181 million in fuel tax receipts to transportation, but on the other hand it cancels a $151 million transfer to the transportation fund and moves about $91 million over to the General Fund.
Motor Transport Association of Connecticut President Michael J. Riley said last week that the raid on the transportation fund and impending fuel tax increase were unfair to the state’s trucking industry, which transports food and goods in and out of the state.
“It’s just not necessary to bang the daylights out of a critically important industry like this in order to fund general revenue,” he said. “We need roads and bridges to be fixed, but we don’t need to be cranking up the fuel tax to be able to pay for General Fund expenses.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said last week that the sweeps were “not a practice that should go on much longer.” He said that the two-year budget transfers less money from the transportation fund in the second year than in the first.
“I’d like to be at zero now. Budgets are a series of compromises that you get to. There was certain revenue sources that could have been identified that the legislature didn’t want to identify, so this is in the budget, but it should get to zero as quickly as possible,” he said.
The increase in the petroleum gross receipts tax was passed in 2005 with the support of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly and a majority of Republican lawmakers, including both House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero and Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney. It was signed by former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Republicans lawmakers started a petition drive last week to encourage Democrats to return for a special session to halt the increase. As of Friday, more than 16,000 individuals had signed the online petition. But Malloy was clear last week when he said it wasn’t going to happen.