HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill passed in the House and State Senate Monday addressing the gas tax holiday, funding for energy assistance, and more as both chambers were called into special session.
Under the bill, the state’s $.25 gas tax on regular gas will continue to be lifted through the end of December. It was set to expire at the end of November. The gas tax holiday, enacted in April, was originally set to expire on June 30th but was extended through November 30th. Beginning in the new year, the $.25 will be phased back in over five months in nickel increments. Connecticut is one of three states with a gas tax suspension in effect.
AAA said the average price in Connecticut for a regular gallon of gas is $3.65, up 10 cents from a year ago.
Buses will continue to be free for riders through March 30, 2023 instead of Nov. 30, 2022.
The bill also increases funding to the Pandemic Premium Pay, often referred to as "Heroes Pay." $30 million was allocated for the program but demand was higher than expected. Under the bill, funding increases to $105 million. Democratic Representative Gary Turco of the 27th district said the original $30 million wasn’t going to be enough.
“With this increase, it will be able to provide, at least some assistance to everyone who applied,” he said.
More money will also be invested into energy assistance from ARPA funds. Funds increase from just under $98 million to $128 million, a $30 million jump. Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) applications are still open.
The bill passed the House with 134 votes in favor and seven against, all Republicans. Representative Whit Betts was one who voted against it citing concerns about diesel fuel still not being included in the holiday and concerns about money appropriation.
“I’ve never been given an explanation, and I can’t provide an explanation as to why diesel fuel is not part of the tax holiday,” said Betts, who represents Bristol and Plymouth in the 78th district.
He also did not agree with the Pandemic Premium Pay, saying everyone did their best during the pandemic. On the other side of the aisle, Turco voted in favor of the bill saying people are struggling.
“We felt, as a legislature, that with people still hurting, it wasn’t the time to have that gas tax to be reinstalled,” the Newington and New Britain representative said. “We wanted to make sure we got people through the holidays, get people through the winter months when there’s a lot of demand.”
The State Senate later voted unanimously for the bill Monday night. Democratic State Senator Julie Kushner said it was important to address issues facing Connecticut residents.
“Tonight we took action, and we moved quickly to extend some assistance to people before the expiration date,” said Kushner, who represents Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, and Sherman in the 24th district. “We got to work, and we found a way to extend benefits to people that will help make life a little bit better in the coming months.”
Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in both chambers said there is more than can be done to help taxpayers. Republican State Senator Ryan Fazio of the 36th district introduced an amendment to extend the gas tax holiday until June 30th. The vote failed. Lawmakers in both chambers Monday also introduced a motion to split portions of the bill into separate propositions instead of one package. They were all shot down.
The bill also pushes out the effective date of changes to the state’s bottle bill to allow retailers to sell off their existing inventory without being in violation of the changes that are scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2023.
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