Matt Lesser

State Senator

Matt Lesser

Deputy Majority Leader

Your Independent Voice

November 29, 2022

Sen. Lesser 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

Today, meeting in special session, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) 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.

“While not perfect this bipartisan package keeps our focus on the cost of living, from gas prices to bus fares, to heating assistance to pandemic pay for essential workers. It’s important work and I’m glad we are getting it done before the holidays. Moving forward we need to build on this to provide additional relief to electric ratepayers,” said Sen. Lesser.

Most prominently, the Senate voted 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, the Senate 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.

Further measures passed today 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 $30 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.