Newtown’s State Representative Mitch Bolinsky (R-106) has challenged lawmakers to block an automatic 16 percent gas tax hike, scheduled to take effect on July 1. The wholesale gross receipts tax on petroleum is scheduled to go from 7 percent per gallon to 8.1 percent, with Newtown residents paying some of the highest gas prices in the state.
“We need to stop this gas tax hike on Newtown commuters who already pay 15 to 20 cents per gallon more than consumers in towns elsewhere in the state and upwards of 30 cents per gallon more than nearby and bordering states,” Rep Bolinsky said in a prepared statement. “What we need now is the will to give taxpayers and drivers a break — not another burdensome tax increase. The more we tax, the more we hinder economic development.”
Rep Bolinsky said commerce suffers because businesses have to pay these taxes, too.
“The larger issue for us is, how many times can we go back to the well, levying new taxes or increasing existing taxes? Will we ever actually sunset one of these temporary taxes? Fundamentally, does Connecticut really need the additional revenue?” asked Rep Bolinsky. “One of the planks of the platform on which I was elected in 2012 was the assertion that Connecticut does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending addiction problem.”
He noted that the latest proposed state budget is evidence that Hartford is “out of touch with the people who actually pay the bills, our taxpayers.”
“When the state needs to rein in spending, how can we accept a proposed nine percent increase in state spending?” he asked
Rep Bolinsky believes the gross receipts tax is the most onerous of taxes. As the price of gasoline increases, the tax also goes up because it is leveraged as a percentage on each gallon of gas sold. Since 2005, motorists have paid $450 million more in gross receipts tax increases.
Gross receipts tax revenue goes into the Special Transportation Fund (STF), which is the chief funding source for virtually all transportation operating and capital expenditures in Connecticut. The fund was established in 1983, following the collapse of the Mianus River Bridge on the Connecticut Turnpike (I-95), to provide a dedicated revenue stream for transportation infrastructure projects and programs.
The gross receipts gas tax has been hiked periodically for years. Originally levied as a one percent tax on the wholesale price of gasoline and intended to provide tank owners with insurance in accordance with federal law, the tax increases to 8.1 percent on July 1, most of which drops into the state’s coffers.
As state finances have fallen into deficit, the STF has become more and more vulnerable to raiding. Approximately $70 million was taken from the STF in 2012 and put into the general fund, and now the governor has proposed to take another $75 million next fiscal year.
“Unfortunately, state government has used the hidden tax at the pump as its personal piggy bank to fund new government programs,’’ Rep Bolinsky said. “It’s time to start living within our means.”
Jobs Summit Optimism
In other news, optimistic about stimulating Connecticut’s sputtering economy, Rep Bolinsky attended a recent legislative Jobs Summit sponsored by the Appropriations Committee.
This year’s Job Summit focused on hearing the results of recent state efforts to encourage a statewide attitude of cooperation to get Connecticut moving in a positive direction.
“The Jobs Summit is an enormous opportunity to learn more about how the system and its collaborating agencies can work together to support economic development and job growth in Connecticut,” said Rep Bolinsky. “It is a unique chance to hear from the business community, state agencies, and not-for-profit leaders about the successes, the challenges, and best practices from stakeholders in the workforce system.”
Using the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission’s (CETC) recommendations and the most recent Results Based Accounting (RBA) report cards as a foundation, the CETC and the agencies informed the Appropriations Committee about how accountability and collaboration are driving the workforce system to improve Connecticut’s economy.
The CETC and seven different agencies made several presentations to the committee. The summit included a panel presentation that focuses on current collaborative efforts among agency partners that are strengthening the system and building new capacity within that system.
Among those who presented were: the Connecticut Technical High School System administrators, the community colleges and their occupational degree programs, and the Connecticut Department of Labor Apprenticeship Program director.
“Hearing from these agencies gave me prospective of how the state can enhance our current services for those that rely on these programs,” Rep Bolinsky said. “And hearing from business leaders allowed everyone the opportunity to recognize that sometimes, state government can do a lot to help by simply staying out of the way.”
The Newtown lawmaker believes a free market thrives best within a system that encourages entrepreneurial spirit and treads more lightly on regulation and mandates.
“It is time we move Connecticut out of the unemployment doldrums and join our neighboring states in this economic recovery.” said Rep Bolinsky.