Stefanowski calls for more CT tax breaks, tighter US gun control

MERIDEN – Bob Stefanowski continued to highlight the impact of inflation on Connecticut residents Wednesday, a point the GOP is hammering across the country. But the Republican nominee for governor indicated he differs from his party on another key issue: gun control.

In the parking lot of Tuxis-Ohr’s, a family-owned fuel and oil delivery company in Meriden on Wednesday, Stefanowski outlined his plan for short-term tax relief, which includes suspending the state’s diesel fuel tax through the end of the year.

Speaking in his second press conference since gaining the party nomination for governor, Stefanowski also called for reducing the sales tax from 6.35 percent to 5.99 percent, ending the 1 percent surcharge on prepared foods, and eliminating a highway use tax on heavy trucks set to go into effect Jan. 1.


Those cuts mirrored a plan unveiled by legislative Republicans a day earlier.

Stefanowski also wants to suspend the state’s wholesale tax on gasoline, currently at 26.4 cents, a proposal not in the state House and Senate Republicans’ latest plan. And he called for the state to use some of its budget surplus to pay down its unemployment trust fund debt.

In total, Stefanowski said his plan would cost about $1 billion — about a third of the state’s $3.8 billion budget surplus.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable in the worst inflation in 40 years to ask Governor Lamont to give a third of it back and help that mom who’s driving her kids to school every morning, paying $5 a gallon for gas,” he said.

The adopted budget, which Gov. Ned Lamont signed last month, calls for the vast majority of the surplus to go toward extra payments on the state’s underfunded pension funds — payments that will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the next 25 years.

The past six months at Tuxis-Ohr’s, which has been in operation since 1979, have been the most challenging in the company’s history due to the high price of fuel, increased cost of parts, and labor shortages, said vice president Katie Childs, whose father started the company. Tuxis delivers about 15 million gallons of diesel annually — all to Connecticut customers.

Childs said she’s bracing for even harder financial times with an expected increase in the state’s tax on diesel fuel on July 1. Each year, the state recalculates the tax, which is based in part on the wholesale price of diesel in Connecticut over the previous year . Childs said industry officials estimate the tax, which is currently at 40.1 cents per gallon, could rise by as much as 15 to 20 cents.

That’s in addition to the highway use tax for heavy trucks that goes into effect on Jan 1, which is “going to hit us with about another half a million dollars in taxes to the state.” Both increases will be passed on to consumers, she said.

Lamont, who approved $600 million in tax cuts and rebates starting July 1, has said he and lawmakers struck a good balance between providing tax relief while also making signifcant payments to the state’s long-term pension debt, which saves money in the long run.

As Stefanowski underscored the impact of the high price of gasoline and other goods and services, the families of some of the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, appeared before the US House to implore Congress to pass gun control legislation .

Asked by reporters whether he supports any of the proposals currently being debated in Washington, DC, Stefanowski said he’s in favor of federal legislation mandating universal background checks for gun buyers.

“Here is one of the areas where I do agree with the governor. There are some principles, for example universal background checks, in Connecticut law that I believe should be adopted at the federal level,” he said.

He added that he would also protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

Stefanowski received an “Aq” rating from the National Rifle Association when he ran for governor in 2018 — the highest grade a candidate who has never been elected to state office can earn. He received the rating for his responses to a survey circulated by the NRA that asked candidates whether they would repeal the state’s post-Sandy Hook gun control law, among other questions.

At the time, his campaign refused to release his answers to the survey, and Stefanowski said Wednesday he has no plans to do so now, despite a public demand that he do so from the state Democratic Party.

While the Sandy Hook law is not “perfect,” Stefanowski said, “it’s keeping people safe.”

“I’m not going to change it,” he said.

julia.bergman@hearstmediact.com

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