Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Republican lawmakers called Thursday for a suspension of Connecticut’s gross receipts tax on gasoline in a temporary proposal they hope will mitigate the impact of a record-breaking surge in gas prices.

Standing at a busy intersection in Hartford, House and Senate Republicans proposed to table the gross receipts tax until July, forgoing an estimated $180 million in revenue to provide temporary relief at the pumps. 

“This is, quite frankly, a no-brainer and will provide immediate relief to families who need it now,” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said. 

Gas prices have soared around the country since late February when Russia invaded Ukraine. The average price per gallon of gas stood at $4.475 Thursday, the state’s highest recorded price, according to AAA. 

The increases have hit commuters with sticker shock and caught the attention of politicians from both parties. 

On Wednesday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski made a more sweeping call for a pause on all gas taxes until next year. Meanwhile, in a video posted to his Twitter account, Gov. Ned Lamont said he would explore relief options with the legislature.

“What we can do in terms of rebates, what we can do in terms of a gas tax holiday,” Lamont said. “Make sure it’s something we can afford for the near term. Make sure we continue to rebuild our roads and bridges.”

Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal was among a group of federal lawmakers promoting legislation to suspend the $.18 per gallon federal gas tax. On Thursday, state Republicans said the two suspensions combined could lower gas prices by nearly $.45 per gallon. 

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said the state could afford to suspend the gross receipts tax on gas given its recent budget surplus. He said lawmakers have heard desperate pleas for relief from their constituents. 

“We have never been inundated more from our constituents of the panic that they are going through, trying to make ends meet,” Candelora said. “It’s important that we act now.”

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Democratic lawmakers expressed support Thursday for reducing the tax burden on Connecticut families, although not necessarily through the proposal offered by Republicans. 

Rep. Sean Scanlon, a Guilford Democrat who chairs the legislature’s tax policy committee, said legislative leaders have been in talks with the governor’s administration over the past two days seeking to identify the best way to address the spike in gas prices. 

Suspending the gas tax may do more to help oil companies, who could absorb the savings, than drivers. 

“What we definitely don’t want to do is help the oil companies that are making a lot of money right now,” Scanlon said. “We want to help the drivers and a suspension of the gas tax sounds nice, I’m just not sure it’s the right idea yet.”

Senate President Martin Looney and Majority Leader Bob Duff also released a statement, saying they were in ongoing conversation on tax relief including the gas tax. 

“Democrats have and will continue to push for policies that reduce the tax burden for middle and working class families while ensuring that the most wealthy and corporations pay their fair share,” Looney and Duff said. “Drivers across the country are suffering from the impact of Putin’s Price Hike as a result of his devastating and criminal war in Ukraine.” 

Meanwhile, Attorney General William Tong reported an influx of consumer complaints to his office alleging price gouging by gas stations. 

“Not every price increase is price gouging, but we will investigate every report we receive during this abnormal market disruption,” Tong said on his Twitter account. He urged residents looking to file a complaint to save receipts and identify the time and location of the sale. 

Candelora said price gouging complaints were not likely to be an effective way to address the issue.

“I can imagine everyone feels they’re being gouged right now,” he said. “What we will do is take our message to the people. That is: We can afford this tax relief to take the pressure off the pump.”