Opinion — Suspend the gas tax

Published 11:18 am Thursday, April 14, 2022

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The April 4 opening of Special Session was about getting organized.

The Constitution is clear that the Governor can send the legislature bills for their consideration at any time, the Constitution is also clear that each chamber sets their own rules.

At the beginning of every session, the House and Senate work together to set the rules of the road – when we can adjourn, what’s in order before each session, etc.

This is more important during a special session because they’re traditionally purpose driven. Without any guardrails, we’re closer to becoming a full-time legislature like Congress.

Last Monday’s procedural resolution hung up in the Senate over whether bills sent from the Governor would be in order before the House and Senate.

The House agreed unanimously that they would be, but the Senate took a little more time to agree.

Governor Youngkin sent us HB 6001 (The Gas Tax Bill), which will now go through the usual committee process, starting with Finance.

Assuming it passes out of Finance with no issue, the entire House will return to Richmond at some point to have a floor vote.

The Senate also has a version they’re considering. The bills will cross over and if different, we will work to resolve those differences and vote on a conference report to send to the Governor.

Democrats are complaining that we didn’t get any work done on Monday, April 4. We didn’t do much, but this session was necessary because they refused to stay in March, extend the Regular Session, and complete work on the budget.

If they didn’t want us to come back, they should have stayed and worked

Up, up, and away

Gas Prices are surging nationwide. The average price of gas in Virginia today is $4.09 a gallon.

When President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, gas prices averaged $2.42/gallon nationwide. When Governor Youngkin took office just one year later, gas prices had surged to $3.413/gallon on average.

The Gas Tax Bill will suspend Virginia’s gas tax for three months: May, June and July, and phase it back in slowly in August and September.

The gas tax would be phased back starting in August at a 50% reduction and then in September at a 25% reduction, not returning in full until October.

We know this approach works. We saw it work in Maryland, where prices dropped instantly.

We also saw it work in Georgia, and just last week in Connecticut, where prices fell from $4.31 to $4.01.

Transportation revenues will continue to grow at a significant pace – this bill would only reduce revenues by $427 million, versus unanticipated revenue of more than $1.2 billion.

The Governor’s gas tax holiday will reduce transportation fund revenues by $437 million, meaning overall transportation funding will still dramatically increase this year.

Even with the estimated fiscal impact to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, overall transportation funding will still grow to $4.639 billion from the original forecast in FY22 and to $4.250.7 billion in FY23.

A typical family will realize savings of $106 over five months.

Next steps are hearings by the Finance Committee, and then a vote by the full House.

Common sense is not so common anymore

House Democrats realized Friday that they’re on the losing side of the tax relief argument and rolled out their own plan to help Virginians. It was predictably a failure.

Their idea is to give car owners a $50 gift card for gas, up to $100 per household.

Virginians need real help, not a gift card for half a tank of gas.

Rather than just lower the price for everyone, it brings money into Richmond, then sends it back to drivers in the form of debit cards.

It’s time for Democrats to get out of the way and let American energy bring down gas prices.

Businesses, especially small businesses, will be left out in the cold. Businesses must pass on the costs to consumers, which drives up the cost of everything for everyone.

Farmers who buy on-road fuel for tractors and other equipment get nothing. Farmers provide so much for Virginia, but Democrats provide nothing for farmers.

How long will it take Richmond to figure out who gets these cards, how much, and then ship them out?

We know suspending the gas tax works. It worked in Georgia, it worked in Maryland and it worked in Connecticut. If tax suspension is such a bad idea, why have places like Connecticut and New York gotten on board?

House Democrats keep making things up, like price gouging being the cause of high gas prices.

What about car owners in jail? Car owners who live out of state but have cars registered in Virginia.

What about families with college students at home who drive? There are many households that have more than two cars.

The simple way to do this is just to suspend the gas tax like Democratic-run states are doing.

Virginians need help now. It’s time to lower the gas tax. I will continue to fight for more money in your pocket and more tax cuts for you and your family. I understand how hard my districts works to provide for their loved ones and I’m thankful to be the voice fighting for our values.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@House.Virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.