Gov. Ned Lamont visited GastroPark in West Hartford on Wednesday to tout the gas tax suspension and speak with small business owners about rising costs.
By Ronni Newton
Gov. Ned Lamont visited the GastroPark in West Hartford Wednesday afternoon, speaking with the food truck park’s owner and other small businesses connected with the space about the legislature’s expected plans to suspend Connecticut’s 25-cent gas tax for three months.
“About 10 minutes,” the governor said regarding the amount of time it would take him to sign the gas tax suspension once it passes the legislature.
“We’ll be probably the second state in the country to offer almost immediate gas tax relief,” Lamont said. “That’s a good start.”
The 25-cent cut, which will probably take about a week to implement, would remain in place through June 30, when the fiscal year ends, and the governor said he believes it will make “an extraordinary difference” for residents and businesses alike.
Mayor Shari Cantor said GastroPark is one of her favorite places in West Hartford – a venue with a large outdoor space where people can gather and a business that itself supports other local businesses.
“GastroPark was started as a dream back in 2017 as a way to help empower small businesses and a way to help small businesses get their foot in the door and launch a business that is fiscally attainable,” said Tate Norden, owner of West Hartford’s – and the region’s – first food truck park. The space opened in the fall of 2019, and continues to grow in popularity and expand its operations.
“We’re very excited to see something happening that is going to further empower food trucks who obviously rely on their livelihood to use gas, to move around, to make money, and that’s going to be right in line with the GastroPark’s mission,” said Norden.
Kevin Masse, owner of Small State Provisions, an artisan bakery located in GastroPark, said early in the pandemic he relied exclusively on delivery, “and we still do deliver bread in West Hartford. So I’m always thinking about gas prices in terms of our deliveries, in terms of trucks bringing in supplies for us,” and the cost of employees getting to work.
“Gas impacts all of us, and I’m just excited that this is going to happen,” Masse said.
Eric Stagle owns and operates two Craftbird food trucks, including one that was parked at GastroPark on Wednesday. “Lately it has been tough filling the tanks with gas prices. Any little bit helps.”
This was the governor’s first visit to GastroPark, and he said it was amazing. “Yesterday we were at an incubator in New London where a lot of entrepreneurs starting up businesses … have a chance to compare notes and grow businesses. This is like an incubator for food.” Food trucks give people a chance to try different things, he said.
“A lot of costs are going up, and inflation is heavy,” Lamont said. “If you’ve got a food truck think about the price of gasoline, up over a dollar just over the last few months. What that means if you’re doing 500 miles a week or plus, what that is.”
What the tax cuts are intended to accomplish is “do everything we can to provide a little bit of relief to people, at least a bridge until we get to July 1 when we get more significant tax cuts.”
The governor said he has been speaking with Cantor about the revaluation, which towns are required to implement every five years and which took place in West Hartford this year. He said some of the proposals he would like to see approved for state residents as of July 1 include a $100-$300 property tax credit, exempting pension and annuity payments from income tax, capping the automobile mill rate at 29, and expanding credits for student loan forgiveness for those who attend a Connecticut school and remain in state.
“These are the little things we’re trying to do to make Connecticut just a little more affordable, easier for you to stay in the state of Connecticut … to make life a little easier especially in complicated times,” Lamont said.
While food trucks run on regular gasoline, many trucks use diesel fuel, which will not be subject to the tax suspension.
The governor said the gas tax break is possible right now in part because of $100 million in surplus in the transportation fund. He said he has asked the legislature to be careful, and avoid the tendency to “worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”
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