MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Election Day is five months away, and News 8 is your local election headquarters. Rising fuel prices and inflation are dominating the race for Connecticut governor.
Truckers are paying more than $6 a gallon along I-91 in Wethersfield. Come July 1, the price will go up an estimated 10 cents.
Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate challenging Gov. Ned Lamont, spoke at Tuxis Ohr’s oil company in Meriden on Wednesday. He is calling for the governor and General Assembly to suspend the diesel fuel tax increase, but Lamont is not biting.
The oil company started back in 1979 with one truck and has grown to 60 trucks. Owner Katie Childs said the six months have been challenging and it’s about to get worse.
“We’re facing right now a diesel gas tax increase July 1,” she said. “We’re facing a mileage tax on all our vehicles January 1 combined.”
Childs said she will deliver about $15 million of diesel fuel this year alone and will spend an extra $1.5 million between the two taxes.
“We’re delivering fuel,” Childs said. “But if they’re carrying concrete products to construction sites or food to grocery stores, they’re all having the same problems that we’re having, so we are looking for relief.”
If elected, Stefanowski said he will make tax relief more permanent. He said he will do what Lamont won’t by capping the diesel fuel tax and cutting the sales tax.
“He [Lamont] refuses to lower the sales tax, even though the among of dollars coming in go up every single day,” Stefanowski said. “That’s inflationary. You talk to a mom or dad in Connecticut, they don’t really care whether it’s Gov. Lamont or President Biden’s fault. Gov. Lamont runis the state.”
Stefanowski said the average resident is spending an extra $577 a month due to inflation, and Lamont should return some of the $3 billion surplus.
“It’s their money, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable in the worst inflation in 40 years to ask Gov. Lamont to give a third of it back and help that mom who’s driving her kid to school every morning paying $5 a gallon for gas,” the Republican candidate said.
Lamont, who was in West Hartford, said property tax, child tax, and car tax relief is on the way, but not for diesel fuel.
“Every time you take money from the transportation fund, that’s one less bridge to repair,” Lamont said. “Every time you cut a tax here, you pay down less pension. We’ve got the biggest tax cut in the history of the state. I’d like to see it kick in and make a real difference for people.”
The governor previously said he was “caught by surprise” when he heard the diesel fuel tax was going up. He said he is working with legislative leaders to see what can be done. Some suggest declaring a state of fuel emergency.
“When I call a state of emergency and act, they start talking about King Ned and get nervous,” Lamont said. “So, if that’s something they think would be effective, that’s something I’d like to consider.”
Chris Herb, the Energy Marketers Association executive director, told News 8 that the scheduled increase in the diesel tax is a yearly exercise based on a formula, and the tax actually went down last year. Usually, members find out in May what the new tax will be, but Herb said he has not been given an explanation by the Lamont administration or the Department of Revenue Services as to why the industry and members like Tuxis Ohr’s haven’t been alerted.
“I think if anything dictates that there should be a special session, it’s this one because this is hurting every person in the state on every product that’s sold,” Herb said.
By law, the Department of Revenue Services needs to notify the industry of what the increase in diesel tax will be by June 15 so businesses can prepare.
It’s unclear if the governor will take action.