Republicans outside the gas station in Torrington Monday. Credit: Christine Stuart photo

TORRINGTON, CT  –  Republicans held the first of six rallies Monday to call on their Democratic colleagues to call a special session to stop the diesel fuel tax increase and offer other tax relief with the more than $900 million state surplus. 

“It’s about not having a situation where the cost of fuel is driving up the price of everything,” Sen. Craig Miner said outside a Sunoco gas station. 

Miner said the state has the money and should be using it to help the average person lower inflation, which has reached a 40 year high. 

“We can afford to make changes,” Miner said. 

Rep. David Wilson said the bottom line is the state doesn’t need the money, “give it back to the people.” 

The state adopted an annual adjustment of the tax on diesel fuel back in 2007. The change is determined by a formula based on the wholesale cost of diesel fuel. Currently, the tax sits at 40.1 cents per gallon and although the Revenue Services Department had yet to quantify the increase on Wednesday, it is expected to rise by nearly 10 cents per gallon on July 1. The deadline to set the tax is June 15. 

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the Republicans are ignoring the fact that they’ve already cut taxes by $600 million in the recent state budget. 

As far as the diesel tax is concerned, Looney said the majority of that tax is paid by out-of-state truckers. 

Republican lawmakers disagreed with the statement. 

They said the diesel tax is paid by local businesses who are then forced to pass along the increase to their customers. 

“I don’t know how they can argue that this is paid by a majority of people that are outside the state,” Miner said. 

He said Democrats can talk about out-of-state truckers all they want, “this is not about out-of-state truckers. This is about the cost of doing business in Connecticut.” 

He said it’s a flimsy argument and voters aren’t going to fall for the fact that they decreased the excise tax on gasoline by 25 cents. 

Looney said the public realizes the impact of the 25 cent gas cut. 

“I think it’s important to recognize that our neighboring states, at least Massachusetts, has not taken the action that we took in suspending the gas tax”,” Looney said. We’re hearing from gas stations along the border that they are swamped with people coming from Massachusetts to buy gas in Connecticut because it’s cheaper here. So I think we have already taken substantial action here.”

Republicans disagreed and are banking on the fact the public will side with them in November. 

Miner said when people who heat their homes with oil this fall get their $1,500 bill to fill a 300 gallon tank the reality will set in. 

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.