Sen. Tony Hwang: “Special legislative session solutions are a start, but not nearly enough to make CT more affordable.”

November 28, 2022

For Immediate Release

Sen. Tony Hwang: “Special legislative session solutions are a start,

but not nearly enough to make CT more affordable.”

Senator Tony Hwang issued the following statement regarding the Nov. 28 special session of the Connecticut General Assembly and House Bill 6001 An Act Concerning the Suspension of Certain Gas Taxes, the Extension of Free Bus Service, Bottle Deposit Labels and Funding for the Connecticut Premium Pay Program and Energy Assistance.

“Today, I voted to support an emergency certification bill that attempted to provide some relief to Connecticut residents facing historic inflation and skyrocketing energy costs.  But I want to be very clear: this bill is not nearly enough. From groceries to gasoline to heating oil to electricity, Connecticut residents are getting pummeled with the high cost of simply paying the bills and making ends meet,” Sen. Hwang said. “The measures we passed today in bipartisan fashion are helpful in addressing those costs, but we missed a golden opportunity to do so much more.”

Sen. Hwang cited a list of solutions he supports in which could make Connecticut more affordable for everyone. They include immediate income tax relief, immediate sales tax relief and the elimination of a truck mileage tax which is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

“I talk to people from every level of the socio-economic strata who are either struggling or worried about their future financial viability in Connecticut,” Sen. Hwang said. “We, as lawmakers, must work together to pass more meaningful and impactful policies to provide struggling families with real, immediate relief.”

Sen. Hwang cited a recent Primerica survey that revealed that 75% of middle-class households say their income is falling behind the cost of living. He also noted that housing evictions are becoming more and more frequent.

“The exorbitant future energy rate hikes requested by Eversource and United Illuminating will only add to people’s pain,” Sen. Hwang said. “We, as lawmakers, need to demonstrate more of a sense of urgency. We already have a food security and hunger crisis. Unaffordable utility and electric bills are unfortunately about to jump even higher. The measures we passed today, while positive steps, could have gone much further toward easing the energy cost pain that is being experienced across our state. This was a missed opportunity. I will continue to push for significant additional relief in the weeks and months ahead.

“This bill is a start. It includes many ideas that Republicans have long advocated for. But it also falls short on delivering the full level of relief our families need at a time when the state has overcollected $2.8 billion in taxes. This bill only extends the gas tax cut for one month, before phasing in the 25 cent gas tax yet again. The bill falls short of even flat funding home heating assistance at last year’s levels, let alone increasing funds to meet the growing need and skyrocketing prices, depending upon federal funding. It does nothing to stop the new truck tax from taking effect on January 1, 2023 which will only increase the cost of groceries and goods even further.  And it does not fulfill the promise of hero pay to all of Connecticut’s frontline workers, because many police, firefighters and EMTs are in fact ineligible for the program.

“Since this spring, Connecticut Republicans have been advocating to extend the gas tax cut, restore funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), repeal the burdensome truck tax, reduce the sales tax, cut the income tax, and make Connecticut more affordable for all families.”

Background on LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)

  • Congress only approved $86.4 million in LIHEAP assistance for Connecticut, a 32% reduction from last year’s level of assistance.
  • At the same time, demand is up with application submissions up 17.4% from the same time last year, and home heating prices are rising.
  • In response, the Governor’s administration significantly reduced the maximum and minimum benefit levels.
    ○ This means the poorest families in CT are seeing their home heating oil assistance reduced by nearly $3,000 compared to the aid they received last year, meanwhile oil is growing more expensive.
    ○ A senior with just $2270/month in total income will have their benefit cut from $3075 to only $730 in fuel authorizations. That is not even a tank of oil at the current prices.
  • Even with the action the state legislature plans to take today, funding still falls short of flat funding and these drastically reduced benefit levels remain unchanged.
  • Senate and House Republican legislators in Connecticut proposed increasing LIHEAP funds by an additional $112.3 million to accommodate increased demand and expand benefits to more working and middle class families expected to struggle to heat their homes this winter. The Republican plan utilizes $112.3 million from the Invest Connecticut account, a fund set aside by the Fiscal Year 2023 budget adjustment with readily available federal ARPA funds yet to be assigned to any programming.

Background on the Gas Tax

  • In March, Connecticut Republicans were the first to push for suspending the gas tax.
  • During the legislative session, Republicans ran amendments to extend the relief.
  • The bill before the legislature today will extend the gas tax suspension for one month, and then phase in the tax in 5 cent increments each month beginning in January until total reinstatement of 25-cent tax in May.

Background on the Truck Tax

  • Connecticut Democrats and Gov. Lamont approved a new highway mileage tax on trucks set to begin in January.
  • CT farmers have said the tax will lead to higher prices on food and have advocated for repeal.