Petar Milošević

The multi-state double gas tax plan known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) faced more setbacks recently. After the Connecticut legislature declined to vote to approve joining the compact earlier this year, they just decided not to consider the initiative during a special session this fall.

Connecticut will join Rhode Island and a cadre of other states that declined to pass enabling legislation for TCI, becoming the latest of the program’s initial 12 member states to get cold feet.

Next door, opponents of TCI in Massachusetts won approval to begin collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would withdraw the state from the climate agreement.

Unlike in Rhode Island and Connecticut, the Bay State legislature never committed to join TCI. Rather, Governor Charlie Baker made the move on his own, provoking intense opposition that ultimately resulted in a successful application for a referendum on the issue. Now it is even more likely that Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to say no to the TCI gas tax on the ballot next November.

The cap-and-trade initiative would require New England vehicle fuel suppliers to purchase energy “allowances” for CO2 emissions. The number of those allowances will then decrease each year, forcing providers to bid up the price they pay for emissions – an expense that is ultimately passed on to consumers through higher prices at the pump.

Taxpayers would bear the brunt of the $3 billion in revenue the program is anticipated to collect over the next decade.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott, who has debated the merits of TCI for years, is having renewed doubts. “I’m not convinced today that it works for Vermont,” Scott said last month to the New England Council. He continued to express reservations about the climate plan, highlighting its impact on lower-income residents. “I feel good about the direction we’re going, without the need to raise taxes, and certainly not a regressive carbon tax.”

In Massachusetts, the House Speaker Pro Tempore has proclaimed a similar sentiment, calling it a “regressive tax” on working class families.

TCI member states will experience rising gas prices and major fuel shortages as a direct result of the new tax. Low-income residents will suffer the most as gas prices skyrocket by up to 38 cents per gallon – a problem compounded by their inability to afford an electric vehicle.

The TCI program now faces an uphill battle to become reality. Only Washington, D.C now remains a guaranteed member of the pact. Dozens of community members and state senators in Stratford, CT pushed back at a “Stop the Gas Tax” rally earlier this month. Even environmental groups are lobbying against the agreement, including the Sierra Club, which cited TCI’s projected 26% reduction in carbon emissions as “too weak.”

The approval of the Massachusetts petition and Connecticut’s decision not to consider TCI legislation this month offer hope for drivers. Fuel consumers in the Northeast deserve better than state-imposed fuel shortages and crippling new taxes on rising gas prices.