Democrat House and Senate leaders say their requests for immediate gubernatorial action on a proposed month-long gas tax holiday have fallen on deaf ears.
Gov. Jim Justice again said on Tuesday the estimated $35 million it would cost the state for the proposal is money designated for repaying road repair bonds.
“It would cost us $30 or $40 million a month, and those funds are going to repair our roads,” Justice said. “And at the same time, nobody in the world would want us to pay a little less to pay at the pump than me.”
But Democrats like Sen. Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, said on Wednesday that neighboring Maryland has called a gas tax holiday, while having the same road bond situation as West Virginia.
“We reached out to Maryland’s State Finance Chairman, and their attorney and found that we could do it here in West Virginia since they encountered the same types of issues,” Lindsay said. “But they were able to get it done.”
Democrats offered an alternative proposal, a $100 rebate to all non-electric vehicle owners. They calculate that would equal the 35.7 percent tax taken off 16 gas fill-ups.
The governor has called the legislature back for a special session next month but has not said he would include gas tax relief on the agenda.
It would take a three fifths House and Senate agreement for the legislature to call itself into a special session. Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, questioned if Republicans would join the effort.
“I can guarantee you every single Democrat would sign on to doing that,” Fluharty said. “Yet we haven’t heard from Republicans who say they would do the same. So I think now the ball goes to the Republican leadership’s court.”
For Gov. Justice, this gas tax relief debate is a double edged sword.
“If the legislature comes to me and says, ‘This is what we want to do,’ I’ll be all in,”Justice said. “But there are so many ramifications. We do not need people grandstanding.”