Gov. Ned Lamont endorsed a plan to temporarily cut taxes on gasoline by 25 cents Monday following a meeting with legislative leaders from both parties aimed at combating soaring gas prices and inflation.
“I think I can tell you there was strong consensus that now is the time to provide immediate relief, A, to the people of Connecticut broadly in terms of inflationary pressures and specifically as regards drivers getting hit at the pump,” Lamont said during a press conference near his office in the state Capitol building.
The governor outlined three specific proposals, which he said legislative leaders would bring to their members in the coming days. They included a holiday on the state’s excise tax on gas that would last until the end of June, a sales tax holiday for a week in April, and free bus service during the month of April.
The temporary holiday from the state gas tax would result in an estimated $90 million loss in revenue, Lamont said. He said the state could afford to forgo the revenue until July without running afoul of constraints on how states spend federal relief money or risking the solvency of the Special Transportation Fund.
The meeting comes just days after Republican lawmakers called for a similar proposal during a Hartford press conference last week. On Monday, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora and Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly called the meeting a step in the right direction.
“This proposal, I think, is going to be a very important measure to provide that relief to our residents and I’m pleased that the Democrats have answered that call we made last week,” Candelora said.
Lamont said Monday’s proposals were closely aligned with what the Republicans had proposed.
“They’re very similar, to be blunt about it. We had both said we wanted to provide immediate relief at the pump,” he said. “We had talked about either a rebate or cutting the motor vehicle tax. I think we broadly agree that the 25 cents is something we can support and pay for and keep the transportation fund solvent so — it’s nice when we agree.”
The Republicans said they were hopeful legislators could vote on the measure when lawmakers met on Wednesday although it may take more time to prepare a bill.
In a joint press release, Senate President Martin Looney and Majority Leader Bob Duff said they expected to vote on policies to protect consumers within the next two weeks.
“We had a very productive conversation with the Republican leaders and Governor Lamont to provide financial relief for Connecticut residents. Later today we will discuss with our Senate Democratic caucus members the ideas of a gas tax holiday through June 30th, free bus service, and an additional sales tax holiday this spring,” Looney and Duff said.
Critics have expressed concern that consumers may not see the benefits of gas tax cuts if fuel providers absorb the savings rather than passing them on. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle say a state law prohibiting price gouging may be used to ensure the cuts make it to drivers. Lamont said they were developing ways to hold gas stations accountable.
“A lot of the consumers will be out there looking for a 25 cent tax cut. We’re going to be able to put in place some crowdsourcing that shows those gas stations that provided a 25 cent tax cut,” Lamont said. “If anybody’s using this as a way to expand their profits, they’ll probably hear from the attorney general.”