The tax on wholesale earnings from gasoline sales was supposed to increase from 7 percent to 7.5 percent, raising $25 million in revenue for the state. The state's gasoline retailers estimate it would add 5 cents to the price at the pump, but others say it would be only 1.7 cents.
Admitting the savings may be small, proponents said they want constituents to know that they care about the rising gas price problem in Connecticut, where the average price for a gallon of unleaded gas was $4.35 on Wednesday.
"This is something that we can do to provide a service, to let our citizens know that we are very concerned about what they're up against," said Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, co-chairman of the tax-writing committee.
Lawmakers had planned to call a special session to only extend a local real estate transaction tax for two more years. But the General Assembly has come under pressure to address skyrocketing gas prices since they adjourned the regular session in May.
Besides the gross receipts tax on petroleum products, the state also imposes a flat, 25-cent-per-gallon tax on gas. That will not change.
The bill also would make it easier for gas stations to offer discounts to people who pay for their gas with cash.
Much of the one-day session, which spilled into early Thursday morning, was overshadowed by political battles.
Democrats, who control the General Assembly, fought off numerous Republican attempts to expand that agenda to include other items, such as increasing funding for nursing homes.
"I don't think we're doing enough," complained Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, angry that lawmakers adjourned the regular session in May without making any changes to the budget that takes effect on July 1.
Majority Democrats said there just isn't enough money to do what the GOP wants.
"While these are wonderful things to run on, the reality is we cannot do them," said Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven.
The new fiscal year that takes effect on July 1 is about $150 million in deficit.
The Senate voted 19-14 to extend a local tax on real estate transactions for two more years - a move strongly opposed by real estate agents, but touted by municipal officials who argue they desperately need the revenue. The bill still awaited House action.
The tax, paid by the home seller, is expected to raise $36 million to $38 million from the slowing real estate market.
"In our world, revenues are very difficult to obtain," said New Britain Mayor Timothy Stewart, whose city is expecting about $400,000 from the tax. New Britain is facing a budget deficit of about $2.2 million, he said.
But real estate agents claim it's unfair to impose the tax, which was supposed to be temporary, on sellers in such a poor market. The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities estimates the tax would add $420 to the sale of a $300,000 home.
"If you don't kill it now, it's here to stay," warned Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury. "Please keep the promise you made five years ago."
Early Thursday, the House was still debating a bill that allow the revocation of government pensions of state and local officials and employees convicted of corruption. The Senate was debating a bill that covers cost overruns in various state agencies, including $21.9 million for the University of Connecticut Health Center.