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Lamont ready to extend CT gas tax holiday into the winter

Gov. Ned Lamont
Gov. Ned Lamont wants to talk with lawmakers about possibly restoring the gas tax in stages in the new year.

It appears Connecticut motorists will continue to enjoy a state gasoline tax break through the winter, though full details remain to be settled.

Gov. Ned Lamont confirmed Tuesday that he’s ready to support an extension of the holiday that has waived Connecticut’s 25-cents-per-gallon retail levy on gasoline since April 1. That holiday currently is slated to expire after Nov. 30.

The governor, who spoke with reporters following a mid-morning Capitol press conference to announce changes within his administration, said he also wants to talk with legislative leaders about possibly restoring the tax in stages, rather than adding 25 cents back all at once.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a cliff on the gas [tax] starting on Dec. 1,” said Lamont, who added he also wants to continue a second element of the holiday — free public bus transit service.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, announced in late September the legislature’s Democratic majority was strongly considering extending the eight-month-long holiday, enacted to help combat inflation.

They didn’t offer a specific end date but suggested it should run through the winter months.

Retail gasoline prices hovered around $4.30 per gallon on April 1 when the holiday began and peaked on June 14 at $4.98 per gallon, according to the AAA.

The $3.77 per gallon price for regular gasoline that the AAA reported Tuesday for Connecticut is 28 cents higher than that of one month ago and one cent below the national average.

“I think it’s good that we’re all on the same page and that we see the need to provide relief,” Ritter said Tuesday following Lamont’s comments, adding that legislators would review any proposal from the governor to eventually phase out the tax holiday in increments.

The speaker said he’s asked House members to reserve Nov. 28 and 29 as possible dates for a special session.

“We will be discussing with our members, the House and Gov. Lamont about how to best continue this relief for residents while also safeguarding the state’s transportation fund,” Looney added Tuesday.

Lamont had expressed similar concerns earlier this fall, saying he was willing to consider an extension through the winter but only if he could ensure that the holiday — which means roughly $30 million less revenue for the state per month — wouldn’t impair the state’s ability to repair its roads and bridges.

The state budget’s $1.8 billion Special Transportation Fund — which covers Department of Transportation operations as well as debt payments on the borrowing for highway and bridge repairs — gets most of its revenue from retail and wholesale taxes on fuel. The wholesale levy, equal to 8.81% of each transaction, was not suspended.

The STF, which also receives a portion of state sales tax receipts, is on pace to finish the fiscal year 18% in the black, a surplus of about $150 million, according to Lamont’s budget office.

Revenues from the wholesale fuel levy, the sales tax and interest earnings are up, collectively, almost $130 million from last fiscal year.

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