Republican leaders today announced they are partnering with No Tolls CT to hold a series of rallies around the state to oppose the Transportation and Climate Initiative and the highway use tax on trucks, which they say will not only raise the price of gasoline but also on food and goods.
“Gov. Lamont and his majority are advocating for $200 million dollars in taxes levied against gasoline and trucks that the middle-class families in Connecticut are going to have to pay at a time when the middle-class family is struggling,” Republican Senate Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, said during a press conference. “It’s what makes our great state more and more unaffordable.”
“What this is really all about is another attempt by the Democrats to pick-pocket the state of Connecticut,” said Republican House Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford.
The Transportation and Climate Initiative would place an emissions cap on fuel wholesalers and distributors and force them to buy emission credits at auction. The funds would be used to support electric vehicle sales, public transportation and “climate justice” initiatives in cities.
TCI was meant to be a regional partnership between thirteen states and Washington D.C., but thus far only Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington D.C. have signed on to the plan.
The TCI program is expected to bring in roughly $1 billion over the next ten years but will likely result in higher gasoline prices. The amount of the increase is in dispute, ranging from 5 cents in the first year to possibly 26 cents by 2032.
The highway use tax would be levied on trucks based on their weight and the number of miles they drive in the state and is also expected to bring in roughly $100 million per year.
Joseph Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said the highway use tax has been tried and rejected by twenty other states, which he labeled a “failed policy.”
“It’s expensive to administer, it’s hard to enforce, it’s easy to evade,” Sculley said. “So why would the state of Connecticut think that they could do this where twenty other states have failed?”
John Pruchnicki, owner of Coastal Carriers of Connecticut, a trucking company with locations in Ansonia and Bloomfield, said the highway use tax alone will cost his company between $175,000 and $200,000 per year, which he will be forced to pass on to his customers.
“We are greatly concerned with these two tax policy proposals that will crush small business here in the state of Connecticut,” Sculley said. “TCI is not an infrastructure program, it’s not an environmental program, it’s just a money grab.”
Kelly and Candelora argued the two measures will increase the cost of groceries, home heating fuel and municipal expenses.
Wayne Pesce of the Connecticut Food Association, which includes major grocery stores in Connecticut, said they estimate TCI and the highway use tax will cost the average Connecticut family “almost $500 per year on their grocery bill.”
“This tax is regressive,” Pesce said. “And we’re also asking our legislators to protect consumers, as well as food suppliers and distributors, local trucking companies, and our state’s most vulnerable residents who really feel the impact of this tax policy.”
Republican leaders and the other speakers pointed to the fact that Connecticut has a budget surplus, federal funding coming into the state and a $3 billion reserve fund to say the state has no need to raise taxes.
Gov. Lamont and Democratic budget proposals use the additional taxes to bolster the Special Transportation Fund, which will likely go broke within the next three years. Lamont says the additional revenue can be leveraged to get low-interest federal infrastructure loans.
Both the TCI and highway use tax were passed by their respective legislative committees and appear to have strong support among Democrats, who have wide majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, making this an uphill battle for Republicans who are hoping to recreate the 2019 tolls fight.
“Similar to the fight against tolls, this TCI gas tax and truck mileage tax is very similar in the way it puts another regressive tax on the people of Connecticut,” said Patrick Sasser, head of No Tolls CT. “We were successful in stopping tolls in the past by working together and informing the people of Connecticut about these proposals, so we thought it was important to make the same effort. We’re looking forward to holding multiple rallies throughout the state and encourage people to attend and let their voices be heard.”
During 2019, No Tolls CT held rallies and protests around the state and hounded Gov. Lamont at nearly every step. Their campaign was ultimately successful when the legislature declined to act, and Lamont gave up the fight and moved on to other issues.
“Democrats continue to lead with revenue, as opposed to coming forth with a transportation plan that makes sense for the state of Connecticut,” Candelora said.
“Once families across our state find out what Democrats are doing to make their gas to get to work more expensive, to make the food they put on their table more expensive, they’re going to reject these ideas,” Kelly said.
The first rally opposing the two policies will be held on April 29 in Stratford.