House Finance Committee Republicans advanced Governor Glenn Youngkin’s gas tax holiday bill and killed Democrats’ alternate $50-per-car tax refund proposal on Tuesday. The bill includes a 100-percent motor fuels tax reduction from May 1 through July 31, a 50 percent reduction in August, and a 25 percent reduction in September. It also includes a two-percent cap on future annual rate adjustments. (RELATED: Virginia’s Governor Proposes 3-Month Gas Tax Holiday)
“As I testified to the House and the Senate early in the year, we have an exceptional amount of revenue that we did not expect a couple of years ago in the transportation plan. Over the six years it’s in the billions of dollars. And obviously, the governor has made a pledge to try to get some of the revenue back to the citizens who’ve contributed to the Commonwealth, particularly in this time of high inflation and economic trouble,” Secretary of Transportation Sheppard “Shep” Miller III told the committee.
Currently, the gas tax is 26.2 cents. Virginia’s average gas price is $3.94, up from $2.71 a year ago but down from $4.23 a month ago, according to gasolinemiseryindex.com. Republicans said that the money would come out of transportation fund surpluses.
Virginia Democrats have objected to the gas tax holiday plan, listing concerns that lowered costs might not be passed on to consumers, benefits would be shared by out-of-state visitors, and that Virginia’s transportation network would suffer from lost funding. Delegate Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax) presented the Democratic proposal. She presented a statistic saying that the average motorist nationally drives 1,000 miles a month, and that the average Virginian gets 23.7 miles per gallon.
“So if you take those two numbers, and you have your tax holiday is 26.2 cents a gallon, even if it was all passed on, the maximum for the average family is just $11 a month. I know that we’re all hurting in many, many ways, but the $11 a month won’t feed anyone at McDonald’s,” Watts said.
She said that rising petroleum costs are impacting asphalt costs, and as a result, affecting transportation maintenance costs.
“By law, 53 percent of the gasoline tax revenue goes to maintenance: filling the potholes, making sure that you can move the snow, making sure of safety rails. That 53 percent is not something that is back-filled at all with federal dollars, but it’s also where every single working family is touched the moment they get out of their driveway, as to the condition of our roads,” Watts said.
The Democratic proposal would provide $50 per car registered in Virginia, up to $100 per household. (RELATED: Virginia State House Democrats Propose $50 Tax Rebate to Car Owners)
She said, “I’d just like to emphasize that I think we’re in a very unique point in Virginia with our status of the budget that we are currently negotiating. With this surplus that we have $14.7 billion, we have a unique opportunity to tackle both real tax relief for Virginia families as well as focus on our infrastructure and the projects that need attention in the Commonwealth. In terms of tackling some of the misconceptions that have been raised during this committee meeting about gutting some of the infrastructure transportation projects, it simply needs to be clarified that again, this does not affect any existing projects at all.”
In a non-recorded voice vote, the committee voted to send the Republican version of the bill to the House Appropriations committee.
“Today’s vote was an important step in moving our proposal to lower gas prices for Virginians feeling pain at the pump for too long,” Youngkin said afterwards in a press release. “We know there’s plenty of money available to bring some relief to Virginians now as we head into these busy summer months. As we saw in Maryland, this proposal would bring quick relief to Virginians struggling with high gas prices. I applaud today’s constructive hearing and look forward to working in a bipartisan manner with the General Assembly to help pass this important legislation. Virginians are counting on us to put politics aside and deliver for them.”