This is one of my most favorite times of the year! Celebrating family and faith during this holiday season of giving also means being thankful for the things that matter most, especially in these trying times.
Last week, I was grateful to join my colleagues in the Connecticut General Assembly as we convened for a Special Session to discuss House Bill 6001. This included an extension of the Gas Tax Holiday, additional funding to the Hero’s Pay Program, the Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Operation Fuel, as well as free public bus fares and changing some bottle-deposit requirements.
The spirit of giving was reflected as many additional funds were approved to provide the necessary financial assistance to low-income families and residents. However, what is important to understand is that even with additional funding and an extension of the Gas Tax Holiday, there are still Connecticut residents who will not be experiencing any relief.
Concerning the Gas Tax Holiday, the General Assembly found bipartisan support for an extension, however this only means that the tax will incrementally increase to a higher rate at five cents per month. While Republicans attempted to eliminate the Gas Tax entirely to provide total relief, the Democrats swiftly shut that proposal down.
On the concept of Hero’s Pay, we agreed that additional funding was necessary for the pandemic-era program, nevertheless, Democrats failed to support the addition of fireman, police, and other first responders. Therefore, we again only achieved partial success and left out those I am most thankful for every day.
Another positive outcome of H.B. 6001 was appropriating additional funds to LIHEAP which would directly assist low-income households with their heating bills. Despite having Republican-led initiatives introduced to expand the income requirements and overall accessibility of LIHEAP, Democrats rejected our proposal and ultimately left the middle-class forgotten.
The final vote tally for H.B. 6001 was 134-7, with bipartisan support despite some key issues in the final language of the bill. Aside from only partial solutions, the bill failed to address the Highway Use Tax increase on January 1, 2023, which only makes CT more unaffordable.
I am grateful for our attention to the needs of Connecticut, but I look towards this upcoming 2023 Legislative Session to work towards incorporating the needs of the middle-class and our first responders, for whom we all can be thankful for.
H.B. 6001 consists of positive ideas with only temporary and limited solutions. It outlines financial assistance to in-need residents and taxpayers on key issues, such as gas and heating concerns, but still fails to clearly provide permanent solutions as many of us deserve.
The point is, although the legislation I supported does have some benefits, there is still plenty of work to be done as we prepare to enter the 2023 Legislative Session in January. I urge you to call upon your legislators, especially those in the majority party, to prepare themselves to tackle the consequences of the short-term solutions they passed during the recent Special Session.
May your Christmas and holiday season be filled with good health and many blessings! God bless you, and God bless America!
Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-89)