Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly on right Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Republican lawmakers sought Tuesday to make Connecticut’s swelling budget surplus a political liability for Gov. Ned Lamont by proposing a special legislative session to send more money back to residents through additional tax relief.

During a morning press conference outside the state Capitol building, the legislators announced plans to hold a series of rallies designed to boost public support for a package of tax cuts which failed to gain traction among the legislature’s majority Democrats during the regular session.

The Republicans called for proposals including reducing the income tax rate from 5% to 4% for individuals making less than $75,000 and households making less than $175,000, reducing the state sales tax from 6.35% to 5.99% until the end of the year, eliminating a mileage-based highway user tax scheduled to go into effect next year, and extending a current gas tax holiday to diesel fuel. 

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly pointed to a recent tweet by the governor, which touted the state’s $2.1 billion budget surplus. 

“You would think the [Democratic] party would say we need to return those over-collected taxes back to the taxpayers,” Kelly said. “But when given the opportunity during session for a $1.2 billion tax cut, the majority refused.”

The Tuesday event was held just minutes after Lamont’s reelection campaign unveiled its most recent campaign ad, which highlighted the tax relief proposals which Democrats did adopt in this year’s budget proposal. 

The commercial features a narrator describing the impact of inflation driving up the costs of goods before shifting to a series of residents praising recently-adopted provisions expanding a property tax credit, capping the statewide mill rate and reimbursing towns for lost car tax revenue, as well as a temporary holiday from the state’s gasoline tax. 

In a press release, Lamont’s campaign spokesman Jake Lewis said the governor had worked to make the state more affordable. 

“Connecticut families and small business owners know that Governor Lamont has their back,” Lewis said. “His recent budget provides hundreds of millions of dollars in historic tax cuts and critically needed financial relief–allowing families to save for their futures and businesses to get ahead.”

The Republican legislators said they had yet to see the new commercial, but Kelly said the tax relief adopted this year failed to overshadow tax increases adopted in earlier legislative sessions. 

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said voters would take note of the state’s budget surplus as the costs of goods and services continue to rise for consumers. 

“The biggest tragedy in all of this is what’s different from any other year is we have a record surplus of money sitting in the bank and these guys won’t release the money back to the people,” Candelora said. “When people realize that there are billions of dollars the state of Connecticut is holding onto, that this governor continues to brag about but not giving it back to them is problematic.”

Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

The Republican leaders also called on the state to cancel an annual adjustment of the diesel tax, which is scheduled to go into effect next month. Although the Revenue Services Department had yet to announce how much the diesel tax would increase, Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, estimated it may be as much as 10 cents per gallon. 

Sculley said the increase in the diesel tax as well as the scheduled implementation of the highway use tax would contribute to the rising costs of goods in the state. 

“State government’s own numbers tell us we literally do not need them, there’s no reason to have them and it’s making inflation worse if we get them,” Sculley said. “There is still time so let’s take care of this right now.”