Sen. Jason Welch: Drivers deserve a break

April 1, 2013

Article as it appeared in the FootHills Media Group

Transportation issues were the driving force behind public hearings at the Connecticut State Capitol this week. Two of the most prominent concepts: a lock box for any monies collected for road and bridge repair, and getting rid of a tax on gas that is expected to go up this summer.

I have co-signed a bill to prevent money in the state’s Special Transportation Fund from being used for the general fund. The bill is House Bill No. 6039, An Act Limiting Expenditures from the Special Transportation Fund.

Last year this governor’s budget did not transfer $70 million to the special transportation fund, as prior law would have required. This bill would limit budgetary gimmicks. The money is supposed to go toward fixing roads and bridges, upgrading trains and buses. When the administration takes it for other purposes, the commuting public suffers.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, transfers to the fund were reduced last year by $70 million and in the next fiscal year the governor is proposing to reduce the transfer by even more, $74.8 million.

The transportation committee voted to pass this bill out of committee, and it will now await a vote by the full general assembly.

Meantime, I join my colleagues in looking for relief at the gas pump. House Bill No. 1095, An Act Eliminating the Increase in the Petroleum Products Gross Earnings Tax (PGRT), is aimed at getting that relief. This bill would reduce the cost of gas by eliminating the scheduled increase in the PGRT from 7 percent to 8.1 percent, that is effective July 1.

If this tax is allowed to go up this summer, consumers will be paying more at the pump. The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates that this increase will cost taxpayers $62.6 million.

We need to give folks some relief, and I will support this bill in order to achieve that goal. I would also like to see the administration curb its spending habits. If government can be more fiscally responsible with money, then maybe we could eliminate some of these onerous taxes like this gas tax.

The Finance Committee of the General Assembly listened to spirited testimony in Hartford on the gas tax bill.

The hearing took place at the Legislative Office Building. Both the bill to protect transportation money and the bill to eliminate the scheduled gas tax increase are awaiting a vote by the full legislature. The session ends in June.

One of my goals will be to try and get some relief for you and your family before you hit the road on your annual summer vacation.

State Sen.Welch represents the 31st district towns of Bristol, Plainville, Thomaston, Harwinton and Plymouth.