During the weekend, numerous states including Maryland and Georgia, passed temporary gas tax restrictions in response to rising gas prices nationwide, refusing to follow California’s lead in refusing to halt the state gas tax last week.
Last week, Assembly Republicans introduced AB 1638 by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) to suspend the 51 cent gas tax for six months, and instead fund the lost tax amount slated for California roads and infrastructure of $6 billion through part of the California state tax surplus.
However, Assembly Democrats voted down Kiley’s proposal and instead diverted their focus on giving Californian taxpayers a $400 rebate. While the rebate is expected to likely pass, many critics says that the rebate will not go far enough for actual drivers in California, while also costing $9 billion from the surplus, $3 billion more than the Republicans killed plan.
Despite many states usually following California’s lead, multiple states bucked the usual California-following trend by passing state legislation to get rid of their state gas taxes for a limited time. On Friday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed into law a bill passed in the Annapolis State House that removes Maryland’s 36.1 cents tax on gasoline and 36.85 cent tax on diesel for an entire month.
“As we continue to stand in solidarity against Russian aggression in Ukraine and as Marylanders face the impact of surging inflation with the average price of gas rapidly rising, this bipartisan action will provide some relief from the pain at the pump,” said Governor Hogan on Friday. “This of course, is not going to be a cure-all, as market forces will likely cause prices to fluctuate.”
The tax was also removed in Georgia, saving Georgians 29 cents per gallon of gasoline and 32.6 cents per gallon of diesel through the end of May.
“With gas prices up by at least 59% in a year, & D.C.’s pandemic politics further driving inflation, Georgia’s families need & deserve all the relief we can give them,” tweeted Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Friday. “Today, I signed HB 304, temporarily halting the state’s gas tax.”
Other states, such as Connecticut, are also currently close to finalizing temporary gas tax cuts. Some states, such as Michigan, came close but ultimately followed California’s lead, with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ultimately vetoing her state’s bill for reasons similar to California Democrats who did not want to lose that revenue source for road and infrastructure funding while also wanting an alternative method of gas pump savings.
“A short-term pause in the sales tax on fuel is a fiscally-responsible action we can take that will provide drivers relief at the pump right now – not next year – while also protecting funding for road repairs and saving tens of thousands of good-paying construction jobs,” noted Whitmer on Friday. “While I am open to negotiating on alternative proposals, I will not support legislation that jeopardizes road repairs, construction jobs, or funding for local schools.”
California, Michigan turn down temporary gas tax eliminations
In California, many transportation experts remain baffled by the Assembly’s decision and have pointed to how other states are simply adding in the most direct form of pump relief.
“What California is doing makes no sense besides maybe one party wanting to be seen as the heroes over another, or continue pushing for electric car adoption,” explained John Kirsch, a transportation planner who focuses on gas and electric car recharging station placement in many Western states, to the Globe on Monday. “But ignore those for just a moment. The gas tax hits drivers only, while a rebate is for all taxpayers. Getting rid of the gas tax is much more direct not to mention cheaper. And the argument that it would endanger infrastructure funding makes no sense as surplus money would be used to cover it.”
“My conclusion, and the same many have come to, is that this is largely political. It was also political in Michigan, with a Democratic Governor vetoing a Republican bill because she wants her own passed. Now look at Maryland, Georgia, and Connecticut. Liberal and Conservative states each with relatively big bumps of the other party too at the state level. They got together, didn’t waste time and decided to get rid of the gas tax. Well, not Connecticut yet, but they will. Other states too in a wide array of blue, purple, and red are are bringing this up fast.”
“They looked past politics and, while they aren’t for six months, they’re helping the man on the street struggling to fill the tank for a bit. California does bipartisan bills more regularly than people think, but the gas tax is at the heart of a lot of political machinations and they just proved it yet again last week.”
The $400 tax rebate legislation is currently being discussed by lawmakers.
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