Connecticut lawmakers cap state gas tax

Latest on Gas and Fuel Costs

March 29, 2012 6:02:10 AM PDT
As the price of gasoline increases, so does the enthusiasm among lawmakers to propose legislation that somehow limits the price at the pump.

In Connecticut, where the General Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation that attempts to address the high prices, lawmakers have been through this before. There have been cuts to the state's gas tax and investigations into alleged price gouging, but the lasting effects of these efforts have been negligible in a state with some of the highest gas prices in the country Still, many commuters frustrated with prices hovering around $4 a gallon are eager to see state government take action, however small the impact might be.

"It certainly would be nice if our dear governor could do something about it. It has to start somewhere, and if it can't start on the national level, then I think the state of Connecticut should absolutely do something," said Janet Dillon of Newington, who was filling up her tank at the Valero in Wethersfield.

The latest effort by lawmakers, which awaits Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's signature, caps the gross receipts tax on fuels when wholesale prices hit $3 a gallon. Considering the wholesale price at the port in New Haven is currently $3.20 a gallon, this plan would reduce the current price of regular unleaded by 1.5 cents. But proponents said this cap will protect motorists from future increases.

It also attempts to protect consumers from alleged profiteering and price gouging in Connecticut by oil wholesalers.

"I think this is an important bill, but I think we all have to be clear that no one will see radical price decreases at the pump," said Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, co-chairman of the General Law Committee.

Steve Guveyan, the executive director of the Connecticut Petroleum Council, agreed there is not much state legislators can do to affect the price of gas, even though they're feeling pressure from frustrated drivers.

"You feel pressure (from constituents to lower prices), but it's driven by the world crude oil markets and what's going on around the world, not by anything happening in Connecticut," he said. "This is a Connecticut Band-Aid, so to speak, for something that's happening in the world oil markets and those kind of Band-Aids have a tendency not to work."

Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said the bill could potentially slow the increase of gas prices.

"The problem with the price of gas is that much of it is beyond the control of state government. And what we do have control over won't provide the kind of impact that people need and expect," he said.

There are two taxes on gasoline in Connecticut. Besides the gross receipt tax, which adds about another 25 cents per gallon to the price, there's a fixed 25-cent-per gallon tax. Over the years, the legislature has focused on reducing fixed gas tax. It was reduced from 39 to 36 cents in 1997; 36 to 33 cents in 1998; from 33 to 32 cents in 1998; from 32 to 25 cents in 2000.

Mark Choquette of New Britain, who estimates he spends $50 to $60 a week on gas driving back and forth to work, said he does not expect lawmakers to do much.

"I think they owe too many favors to too many people and nothing gets done. I don't have much hope," he said.

Republican senators unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill, seeking to eliminate a July 1, 2013 increase in the gross receipts tax. The state would lose approximately $55 million in revenue, money earmarked for road and bridge work.

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