Joan Hartley

State Senator

Joan Hartley

Chief Deputy President Pro Tempore

An Independent Voice

November 29, 2022

Sen. Hartley Votes To Extend Cost-Saving Measures, Benefit Residents Through 2023

Extension of exemption on gas tax, free bus fare; increased funding for pandemic worker bonuses, heating oil assistance

Meeting in special session, State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury, Naugatuck, and Middlebury) joined the state Senate as it extended important cost-saving measures first approved this spring that will provide more than $200 million in financial benefits and savings to state residents in coming months. Senators voted to keep the state’s gas tax exemption, saving motorists $90 million through May 1; extend free bus fare through next spring, saving riders $10.8 million; allocate $75 million to a state program aiding essential workers who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic; and invest $30 million to programs aiding residents who need assistance with high energy costs.

“The extension of these cost-saving measures will provide daily relief to families across Waterbury, Naugatuck, and Middlebury. It will ease the pinch at the gas pump and as people are commuting on the bus whether to work or school. Equally as important, we are taking strong action to provide heating assistance to families in need as we approach the winter season,” said Sen. Hartley. “I’m encouraged by the collective action taken today and am hopeful that we will continue this productive work to lower costs for Connecticut’s hard-working families in next year’s legislative session.”

Most prominently, Sen. Hartley joined the Senate in voting to retain the state’s holiday on the gas tax, which has saved residents 25 cents per gallon purchased since April 1 amid fluctuating fuel costs. That gas tax holiday will be phased out gradually, avoiding a financial cliff and allowing for residents to acclimate to shifts in price. Under the current proposal, the tax will see 5 cents removed from the exemption each month from January 1 (25 cents per gallon to 20 cents per gallon) through May 1 (5 cents to 0 cents). Without action, the gas tax would have resumed in full on Thursday, December 1.

Additionally, Sen. Hartley voted to keep free bus fare available to state residents through April 1. Free bus fare was initially introduced alongside the gas tax earlier this year to allow for residents without personal vehicles to enjoy financial savings on transportation as well. Since then, reports indicate bus ridership is at an all-time high. A resident traveling to work, or to purchase groceries, pick up a prescription, see a doctor or any number of other everyday tasks, currently saves up to $3 on each leg of their journey. The April 1 ending date is due to federal regulation; the extension will cost a total of $10.8 million for those four months.

Also, Sen. Hartley acted to invest $30 million into the state’s heating oil assistance programs, in particular the Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program, as a contingency in the event federal funding cannot support program costs. This adds to $97 million in state and federal aid already dedicated to helping Connecticut residents struggling to pay for heating costs. On the heels of Eversource and United Illuminating filing rate increases increasing electricity bills by up to 40%, and with already-high numbers of individuals seeking aid continuing to increase amid financial challenges for many, this allocation is vital in helping countless Connecticut families stay warm without sacrificing other important needs.

Further measures passed by the Senate included two allocations of funding to bolster programs aiding state residents. These include $75 million added to the pandemic worker bonus fund, which will pay out bonuses of up to $1,000 to more than 130,000 residents who worked in essential in-person roles during the pandemic. That fund, initially budgeted at $35 million, will see its allocation swell to $105 million to ensure workers receive bonuses they were promised. Funding will be sourced through unexpended funds from the CT Essential Worker Program and projected lapsing appropriations in the general fund. Payments will be reorganized by income brackets; workers earning under $50,000 will receive $1,000, with bonus amounts reduced gradually among increasing income brackets.

Additional actions taken include a requirement that 95% of proceeds from fines administered by PURA in fiscal years 2023 and 2024 will go toward nonprofit energy assistance programs and a requirement that nonprofits submit annual reports to PURA regarding use of proceeds. This will ensure additional financial support in these programs. The Senate also voted to ensure retailers’ existing inventories of beverage containers not marked for recycling can continue to be sold after January 1, when new bottle laws take effect in the state.