Democrats Punt on Carbon Caps as Republicans Claim Victory on Taxes

As Democratic leaders announced their intention to forgo consideration this year of the multistate Transportation and Climate Initiative — an emissions compact that would also raise gasoline prices — advocates of the policy rallied for them to reconsider, while Republicans claimed victory.

Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, and Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven told reporters on Friday that the Transportation and Climate Initiative pushed by Gov. Ned Lamont and his administration would not come up for a vote this year, according to the Associated Press.

The announcement followed weeks of Republicans rallying opposition to initiative, and debates about the cost to consumers. Proponents said the initiative would increase the price of gasoline by 5 cents a gallon in the first year – and 9 cents in the tenth year – and would generate about $1 billion over 10 years for projects meant to reduce emissions from motor vehicles and increase access to other transportation options. The proposal capped cost increases at no more than 9 cents in the first year.

Republican leaders, who have been hosting “Stop the Gas Tax” rallies against the TCI, claimed victory for blocking Democratic proposals including a mileage tax on tractor-trailers, a tax on health insurance and higher income taxes for those earning more than $500,000. Lawmakers will still vote on the tractor-trailer mileage tax — but separately from the budget, according to CT Mirror.

Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said in a statement that the opposition they rallied across the state kept those proposals out of the budget proposal.

“Connecticut’s families are taxed enough. At a time when we have historic federal aid, a budget surplus, and a record-breaking rainy-day fund it is irresponsible and out of touch for Democrats to tax people even more,” Kelly and Candelora said. “The shift away from tax increases is a win for Connecticut families and exactly who Republicans fight for. It’s a win for every working- and middle-class family.”

Proponents looked to tout the investments that could be made with TCI revenue, and their potential to fund projects that could start to reduce the outsized impact of pollution on people of color in Connecticut, and disparities in access to transportation. Opponents, both Republican and Democrat, said it amounted to a regressive gas tax that would place a higher burden on poorer people in the state.

On Saturday, proponents of the TCI gathered in Hartford to urge Democratic leaders to reconsider and bring the program up for votes in the House and Senate.

Robert Goodrich, director of Radical Advocates for Cross-Cultural Education in Waterbury – who has been in the forefront of the campaign to promote the potential benefits TCI could bring to cities like Waterbury that are overburdened by air pollution – said the coalition believed they had enough votes to pass in the Senate, despite Looney saying they did not.

Goodrich criticized Lamont for not compromising on taxes in the biennial budget, and said the “inaction and political gamesmanship” of lawmakers will only delay solutions for communities like Waterbury.

“Our communities must endure continued suffering, because they have to suck on tailpipe emissions on a daily basis, which I’m sure Senator Looney, Senator [Bob] Duff, Governor Lamont’s, family, children, parents, cousins and uncles do not have to,” Goodrich said. “Their choice to sit in the room and have deliberations about this budget process, without the input from communities that are impacted the most, is a shameful tactic.”

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