Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski was making campaign stops at Donut Crazy locations throughout the state Friday reminding voters of the 9-cent diesel tax increase that takes effect today.
“You know what a trucking company does when they get taxed? They have to pass that tax onto consumers,” Stefanowski said. “When you go to a restaurant you’re going to see a higher cost of food. When you go to a store you’re going to see a higher cost.”
Stefanowski, who is mounting a rematch against Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, admits that Lamont didn’t implement the tax, but he argues he could have stopped it by calling a special session of the legislature.
The change, determined since 2007 by a formula based on the wholesale cost of diesel, will bring the diesel tax to 49.2 cents a gallon. The change represents a 23% increase over the current tax. Barring legislative action, it will remain at that rate until it is adjusted again on July 1, 2023.
The average price of diesel fuel in Connecticut sat Friday at $6.44 per gallon, according to AAA.
“We should suspend the diesel tax. We should suspend the remaining tax on gas,” Stefanowski argued.
He continued, ”prices are going up, it was totally within his power to stop that.”
Thomas Guzzo, a West Hartford resident who is close to retirement, said the state is sitting on surplus and should do something to try and help folks.
“I don’t think he’s done his job,” Guzzo said of Lamont.
Lamont, whose campaign did not respond to requests for comment, has said the diesel tax is paid by mostly out-of-state truckers and the state’s Special Transportation Fund needs the money because it’s unclear what the future holds.
“We’ve got historic levels of Biden, Lamont inflation,” Stefanowski said.
Lamont has said inflation is a global problem and not something he can control at the state level.
Stefanowski said his administration would do something to lower taxes and help people. He argued the state should have used some of its billions of dollars in surplus funds to stop the diesel tax increase from going into effect Friday.
Stefanowski admits it would have been risky to go into special session, but he said it’s a Democratic legislature and “that just tells me he can’t control his own legislature.”
He said Democrats want to run from this economy and focus on social issues.
Earlier in the day, Lamont issued an open letter to businesses in other states inviting them to look to move to Connecticut because of its abortion protections. Roe v. Wade is codified in Connecticut and the Supreme Court decision will have no impact on services women in the state are able to receive.
“We are writing to any business owner that is disappointed in the stance of their current state. If you are looking to relocate to a state that supports the rights of women and whose actions and laws are unwavering in support of tolerance and inclusivity, Connecticut is for you,” Lamont wrote.
Lamont went on to write: “Connecticut businesses can count on a pro-growth environment, tax stability, and strong fiscal management. We’re even providing the biggest tax cut in state history. Our workforce is well-known for its skill and productivity, and our team is investing in new initiatives to ensure our companies have the talent they need for the long run.”
Stefanowski said Connecticut’s position on social issues might be a factor in businesses moving here, but “a much bigger issue is going to be tax rate, regulation.”
“They may look at that but I don’t think it’s going to be number one on people’s lists,” Stefanowski said. “The reason Gov. Lamont highlights that is because every other metric to small business moving here is one of the worst in the country.”
Stefanowski said he will lead with a focus on the economy and not Connecticut’s social policies like legal gambling, legal cannabis, and abortion rights.
“He can’t use the economic argument so that’s the only one he has,” Stefanowski said.