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Democrats are urging Gov. Jim Justice to expedite a gas tax holiday.
West Virginia Democrats responded to Justice’s statement from Monday that he’s considering a one-month gas tax holiday. He said he was also considering calling a special session next week.
Justice said the gas tax suspension could help West Virginia families with summer travel.
“They are thinking about going on vacations and things like that,” Justice said. “If there’s a way to help a little bit and take a one-month holiday, I don’t think it would be detrimental to us.”
Justice had expressed concerns that funding a gas tax holiday would cut into state road bond funding. He said on Monday that federal dollars and a $300 million state surplus may allow the gas tax pause.
Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, said that Democrats proposed the gas tax holiday back in April.
He and other Democrats pointed out the gas struggles of low income West Virginians. They noted that some neighboring states like Maryland have implemented a gas tax holiday.
Baldwin and other Democrats repeated state tourism concerns. They believe with high gas prices, many might not drive to state parks or take part in gas-consuming adventures on the Hatfield-McCoy ATV trail.
“Tourism is big in the state right now, and we want to keep it that way,” Baldwin said. “If gas prices are higher here, that’s going to impact that. If gas prices are lower here than in surrounding states, then more people are going to be more likely to come to West Virginia.”
Democrats said another option would be a rebate for registered motorists and motor? carriers. It’s estimated that 600,000 West Virginia drivers getting a $50 rebate would cost the state $30 million per month. A $100 rebate would cost $60 million a month.
The Democrats preferred plan is starting with a one-month gas tax holiday, and leaving options open to extend it month by month.
According to AAA, a gallon of regular gas averaged $4.73 in West Virginia on Tuesday, up from $2.99 a year ago.
All Senate and House Democrats back the gas tax holiday. No word from any Republicans, except Justice.
Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, stand by their joint March statement on the issue.
They said then they support tax reductions, but a multitude of legal and finincial reasons exist to not suspend the gas tax.
They said a 30 day suspension of the 35.7 cent a gallon tax offered no guarantee retailers would lower prices by the same amount. And, they said a gas tax cut could put bond funding for the Roads to Prosperity projects at risk.
Justice hinted he would have details on a possible gas tax holiday and special session in his COVID-19 briefing scheduled for Wednesday