Legislative leaders and the governor’s office will look to avoid allowing an ongoing gas tax holiday from expiring on Dec. 1, according Gov. Ned Lamont, who said Tuesday he favors phasing out the tax break over a period of months.
“We’re talking about that with legislative leaders,” Lamont told reporters after an unrelated press conference. “I think what you probably should do is start phasing down the gas tax cut. I don’t think people want a 25-cent hit. That’s what we’re discussing with the leadership right now, say over the next four or five months.”
The average price of gas in Connecticut Tuesday was $3.77 per gallon. A month ago it was $3.48 and a year ago it was $3.54, according to AAA.
Connecticut’s 25 cent-per-gallon excise tax on gasoline has been waived since April, when a temporary holiday went into effect as a result of legislation passed by state lawmakers aimed at providing relief from inflation and high fuel prices. The policy also provides free bus service, a provision which Lamont said he also hopes to extend later this month.
“I put the two [policies] together,” Lamont said. “As long as mayors want to keep that going, I think it makes good sense.”
But state policymakers have only a small window to act before both policies expire in a little over two weeks. Although Lamont has yet to call the legislature in for a special session, lawmakers say they expect to return to the Capitol sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday next week.
Paul Mounds Jr., the governor’s outgoing chief of staff, said the administration was working with legislative leaders to settle on the specifics of the policy and when it might be passed.
“We know that we have a Thanksgiving holiday coming up,” Mounds said. “Obviously we have to talk to leaders and make sure that they can have the necessary quorum and such but also just to have preliminary talks about what are potential options, understanding the financial picture as well.”
Forgoing the gas tax results in a revenue loss of about $1 million per day, Lamont said. “So we can’t keep that going forever but we’re trying to find a way to phase it down,” he said.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed interest in extending the tax holiday.
“Senate Democrats are in favor of extending the gas tax holiday and free bus service during this time of uniquely high global oil prices,” Senate President Martin Looney said in a Tuesday statement. “We will be discussing with our members, the House, and Governor Lamont about how to best continue this relief for residents while also safeguarding the state’s transportation fund.”
House Speaker Matt Ritter agreed.
“House Democrats are ready to quickly extend gas tax relief and free bus service – two anti-inflation policies that have really helped families, commuters and seniors,” Ritter said.
On Friday, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said Republican would like to see Lamont broaden the scope of the potential special session to include other issues like boosting funding for the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program as well as canceling the implementation of a mileage-based highway use fee on tractor trailer trucks, which is scheduled to take effect early next year.
“I want to have that conversation. It makes no sense to keep this very difficult and cumbersome highway use tax on our trucking industry when we don’t even need the revenue. The consensus revenue continues to project a surplus,” Candelora said. “We really need to take a look at LIHEAP. The governor is going to need to be the one to call us in… I think those items should be included in the call.”