A new CT tax on heating oil? Really?

August 8, 2017

The liberal ideologues who control the Democratic Party in Connecticut cannot learn from their errors.

The decline of our state over the last quarter-century demonstrates the danger of big government. Huge tax increases and burdensome regulations have largely destroyed an economy that was once the envy of the nation. Businesses have been forced to flee or fail; wealthy citizens and talented young people relocate if they can; and the remaining middle class is squeezed unbearably.

Yet heavy-handed proposals just keep coming from the left. Last week, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection released a draft energy strategy calling for “an additional contribution plan” for customers who use oil or propane to heat their homes and businesses (2017 Draft Connecticut Comprehensive Energy Strategy, page 120).

 “Contribution” is Progressive-speak for a new tax, which would hit every family in our state that depends on oil or propane for warmth in the winter. February can be bleak enough in Connecticut without a big new charge on our heat, which will particularly hurt the hard-pressed middle class and seniors on a fixed income.

As usual, the department frames the proposed tax hike in terms of “fairness.”

“Oil and propane heat customers currently benefit from access to efficiency measures,” their report reads. “However, they do not contribute into the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund for their heat as customers who pay for electric and gas heat do. Heating oil and propane customers are therefore subsidized by customers of electric and natural gas utilities.”

 That argument ignores the fact that virtually all Connecticut residents contribute to the Energy Efficiency Fund through their electric bills, even if that service is not used for heat. It also fails to note that gas and electric customers receive higher levels of assistance under the efficiency program, in consideration of their additional contribution.

Perhaps most significantly, DEEP neglects to recognize that gas and electricity are regulated utilities, whose prices are already controlled to reflect affordability. Oil and propane are provided by independent businesses, whose prices are set by the free-market. The service these dealers provide is considered so essential that it has been excluded from any taxation — until now.

I take no pleasure in pointing fingers, but when the same people keep making the same mistakes, they must be called out. It is past time that state agencies stop pushing for new charges on vital family expenses — in this instance, the very fuel that warms our hearths and homes. Such suggestions are especially dangerous at a time when many lawmakers are so desperate for new revenue.

Clearly, a proposal like this requires legislative action; I’d suggest it should also be a legislative initiative. Let politicians who favor placing additional burdens on our hard-pressed families make their case to their colleagues and constituents, instead of expecting unelected bureaucrats to carry the ball. And let the legislators who support a new tax on oil and propane heat say so now, clearly, so Connecticut citizens have a chance to organize against the tax and those who want to impose it.

Markley represents the 16th Senate District, which includes Cheshire, Prospect, Southington, Waterbury and Wolcott.