Call it the special session summer tour.
On June dates in 12 towns, Republican candidates are holding rallies designed to push the Democrat-controlled government to convene a special legislative session on cutting taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The candidates say it’s a chance for Democrats to provide long-lasting tax relief after they rejected Republican proposals to do that during the regular legislative session that ended in May.
The gist of the “Rally for An Affordable CT” is this, according to AffordableConnecticut.com:
“Connecticut is unaffordable and growing more unaffordable by the day. At the same time, Connecticut is overtaxing its residents. While state revenues surge because of inflation, household budgets are strained to the breaking point. We believe the overtaxation of CT residents must be returned to taxpayers.”
Republicans say the tax cuts passed by Democrats last month are too narrow and temporary. Republicans say they have a plan to “deliver responsible tax relief and energy assistance without budget cuts, without touching our historic rainy-day fund, and still contribute nearly $5.8 billion to ease state debt.”
To enact their plan, Republicans need the legislature to reconvene, a step that would require a call by Democratic leaders.
Republicans hope the rallies will activate voters, who have influenced the governor before, said State Sen. Ryan Fazio, a Greenwich Republican who is running for reelection to the seat he won last year in a special election.
“Grassroots efforts have been effective in recent history – in stopping installation of highway tolls and enacting local choice on wearing masks in schools,” said Fazio, who represents District 36, which includes Greenwich, the western part of Stamford and most of New Canaan.
Fazio was rallying Wednesday in front of the Stamford Government Center, where fellow Republican candidates and supporters held signs showing the word “tax” circled in red with a line through it. They waved at motorists who responded by honking their horns.
“We’re here in Stamford because it’s a bustling middle-class city where people need relief from inflation and high taxes,” Fazio said.
The rallies started June 13 in Torrington, followed by East Haven, Stratford, Wallingford, Newtown and Enfield, with two Wednesday, in Stamford and Cheshire.
Others are planned for Wolcott, Trumbull and Niantic, ending with Plainville on June 25.
Republican candidates, led by Bob Stefanowski, the Lamont challenger, are pushing to make headway in November against Democrats who control the governor’s mansion, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
All 36 seats are up for election in the state Senate, where there are 24 Democrats and 12 Republicans. All 151 state House seats are up for grabs, too. The House now has 97 Democrats and 54 Republicans.
State Rep. Tom O’Dea of New Canaan, a five-term incumbent seeking reelection, said during the rally the Republican message of affordability and tax relief is resonating.
“People are coming out for the rallies. I think we have a tail wind,” said O’Dea, who represents District 125, which is New Canaan and Wilton. “A more balanced Hartford is good for the state. The Republican voice needs to be heard more.”
The plan Republicans want to deliberate in a special session calls for $750 million in tax cuts. It would:
- Increase energy assistance by $40 million
- Lower the income tax rate from 5 percent to 4 percent for individuals earning less than $75,000 and joint filers earning less than $175,000
- Reduce the sales tax from 6.35 percent to 5.99 percent through the end of the year
- Eliminate the 1 percent tax on prepared foods through the end of the year
- Eliminate the diesel fuel tax through the end of the year
- Repeal the new highway-use tax for trucks because it would drive up the cost of consumer goods
“Our proposal requires no budget cuts, preserves a historic $2.85 billion in additional contributions to pay down on pension debt, and maintains a record-breaking $3.3 billion in the state budget reserve fund — the maximum amount allowed by law. Our plan works by directing surplus funds — the overcollection of taxes — back to Connecticut residents,” according to AffordableConnecticut.com.
A petition on the website invites voters to “tell your lawmakers to hold a special session.”
O’Dea said Republicans in blue Connecticut are heartened by progress in the campaign season so far.
“We have a good number of Republican candidates running unopposed, including in the New Haven area, which is heavily Democratic,” O’Dea said.
Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo, who served 10 years in the state House of Representatives, said during the rally he hopes both parties can come together in a special session to enact measures that will improve the lives of middle-class Connecticut residents.
Camillo raised a quote from General George Patton: “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
“One-party rule is too skewed,” Camillo said. “Having to defend your policies, as long as the discussion is respectful, is a good thing.”