With the legislature expected to adopt a three month gas tax holiday on Wednesday, gas stations were lobbying lawmakers to include a rebate for the taxes which fuel sellers have already paid on their inventory.
Both chambers of the legislature plan to meet and pass emergency certified legislation which will include a suspension of the state’s 25 cent excise tax on gasoline. The holiday will last from April 1 until the end of June and is the result of bipartisan negotiations designed to ease the burden of gas prices, which reached record-breaking highs after Russia invaded Ukraine last month.
But Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, sought Tuesday to temper consumer expectations, saying the tax cut would not be immediately reflected in prices at the pump unless Connecticut refunds stations the taxes they paid on the fuel already in their tanks.
“We want the public to be aware that if it is not executed properly, if the legislature fails to credit the gasoline that’s in inventory — we estimate that on any given day there’s over $3 million of tax-paid gasoline in the ground — if that is not credited back, the public will pay that $3 million first before we can get to the tax-free gasoline,” Herb said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the language of the bill which lawmakers expected to vote on did not include the rebate gas stations were requesting. In a joint statement, Senate President Martin Looney and Majority Leader Bob Duff said the bill would help consumers through what they called the “Putin Price Hike,” once gas stations began selling the reduced taxed fuel.
“We expect drivers to see the impact of this tax cut within days of the bill being signed. We will be carefully watching gas stations to make sure prices do in fact go down once they begin selling the new, reduced price fuel,” Looney and Duff said.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said he was sympathetic to the gas stations and hoped the state could find a way to offer gas stations a tax credit of some kind.
“It’s something that we should try to address if we can,” Candelora said. “Connecticut should be shouldering the burden of these rising gas prices, not businesses or constituents.”
The state’s current plan leaves gas station owners struggling with the optics of holding prices to recoup the expense of an already-paid tax in a climate where some policymakers have voiced concern that gas stations may choose to absorb the savings of the tax holiday rather than pass them onto consumers.
Last week, Gov. Ned Lamont said the state would hold gas stations accountable for reflecting the tax cut in their gas prices.
“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.”
On Tuesday, Herb said he expected no such malfeasance from Connecticut gas stations, which he said were largely family-owned businesses.
“These are the people that you see at the little league game, you see them at the grocery store. Families aren’t in the business of ripping off their neighbors,” Herb said. “Where there’s always bad actors, Connecticut is different from the standpoint that it’s your neighbor selling you gas.”