Connecticut lawmakers considering relief from rising diesel taxes
The diesel fuel that truckers use is about to get even more expensive in Connecticut, thanks to an automatic yearly tax adjustment. Now, state lawmakers are looking at price relief.
On Tuesday, Republicans once again proposed a diesel tax "holiday" – and this time, some Democrats are open to it.
If you buy any kind of product, it probably comes on a truck. And starting July 1, the state's diesel excise tax is expected to jump around 10 cents per gallon.
"Your food is going to cost more. Your gas is going to cost more, and your clothing is going to cost more," said Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut.
Currently, the diesel excise tax is 40.1 cents. But each July, it's automatically adjusted based on wholesale gas prices. The Connecticut Department of Revenue Services will announce the exact tax rate by June 15.
A 10-cent increase would cost the average tractor-trailer an extra $15 to fill up.
Republicans are calling for a special legislative session this month to cancel this year's increase and suspend the entire tax through the end of 2022. The move would save truckers about $60 a tank over what they're paying now.
"Connecticut could afford this relief, but the Democrats and this governor don't want to give it," said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the House minority leader, at a morning news conference.
Democrats opposed a diesel tax holiday earlier this year, arguing that most truckers are from out of state. But now, with a budget surplus nearing $1 billion, they're open to the conversation.
"We should definitely look at the diesel tax," said state Rep. Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford), co-chair of the legislature's tax writing committee. "I think it's important for us to sit down, get in a room, roll our sleeves up, and figure out if there is a way that we can give folks that drive diesel a break."
It's not clear if Democrats would support a full suspension of the diesel tax. Some prefer to use the surplus on chronically underfunded pensions.
Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that he's open to canceling this year's automatic increase.
"I've talked to some of the leadership there to see what, if anything, we can do on a timely basis," said Lamont. "And I think we're still trying to work that through."
GOP leaders are also renewing calls to drop the income tax rate to 4% for most filers. But with deficits forecast in the future and a possible recession ahead, those ideas are dead on arrival at the state Capitol.
"The Republican political press release is a return to the fiscal irresponsibility of the past and a betrayal of future generations of our state," the top two Democrats in the state Senate said in a joint statement. "The Republicans slash $750 million in debt payments which will not only cost taxpayers this year but will saddle them with millions in payments each year for the next 25 years."
To put on the pressure, Republicans are planning a series of rallies starting next week. A similar strategy successfully defeated Lamont's carbon tax proposal last year.
"We're going to take this across our state and let the people voice their perspective," state Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford), the Senate minority leader.
Lawmakers already approved $600 million in tax cuts this session, including lowering the car tax and property tax relief. Most parents will also get rebate checks this summer under a new child tax credit.
But in an election year, both parties want to claim the most tax relief. Lamont began running a TV ad Tuesday touting this year's cuts.
If lawmakers return to Hartford for a special session, both parties say they'll likely vote on added gun control measures, too. The move comes after mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo. Exact details are still being negotiated.