Democratic and Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives both said this week they still hope to see a special session this fall to ease painfully high gasoline prices.
But House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford, now says he's reluctant to back any session before Election Day on Nov. 7, saying he fears Republicans would use an earlier one to promote their campaign agenda.
The speaker, whose Democrats control 99 out of 151 seats in the state House, said he'd like lawmakers to consider shaving a penny or two off of the state's gasoline excise tax, which stands at 25 cents per gallon.
The problem now, Amann says, is that if a session is called before Nov. 7, there is no guarantee Republicans won't offer amendments to any gasoline-related bills to try to force Democrats to vote on other subjects. (Phaneuf)
Yes, shave off that penny or two. That way, prices will drop from $2.89 to $2.88, and I can save an entire 15-30 cents per fill-up. If that is the extent of the Democratic plan, then they shouldn't bother holding a special session at all--before Election Day or otherwise.
Other possibilities include the elimination of the petroleum products gross receipts tax, which adds about 17 cents. This tax was originally supposed to help raise money for transportation projects, but the windfall the state took in from the price spike following Hurricane Katrina has raised much more than was required during the first year.
House and Senate members both voted unanimously in spring 2005 to raise the tax in four annual increments, between July 2005 and July 2008, ultimately boosting it from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.
Those increases were supposed to net the state an extra $80 million per year, which would be channeled into a multibillion-dollar highway and infrastructure overhaul.
But after the first increase, from 5 percent to 5.8 percent, took effect in July 2005, the tax brought in an extra $95 million in one year alone, as Hurricane Katrina, instability in the Middle East, and other factors caused gasoline prices to spike.
When lawmakers returned to the Capitol in 2006, they increased the planned spending on transportation projects, and allowed the second of the four tax increases to take effect, boosting the rate to 6.3 percent in July 2006. (Phaneuf)
A combination of reductions in the petroleum products gross receipts tax and the excise tax would make for some substantial relief. However, don't expect anything to get done before Election Day, as Democrats don't want to hand Jodi Rell another issue she could theoretically club them with.
Phaneuf, Keith. "House to address gas prices; speaker wary of special session before Election Day." Journal-Inquirer 1 September, 2006.