Virginia gov, at the pump, asks lawmakers to suspend gas tax
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Wednesday he wants the divided General Assembly to pass legislation suspending the state gas tax for three months, a move that would save drivers about 26 cents per gallon at a time when prices have skyrocketed.
During a campaign-style appearance at a Richmond-area gas station, Youngkin said he would send a bill to lawmakers when they reconvene soon for a special session that would roll back the tax, then gradually restore it after the three-month holiday. State revenues that have far exceeded forecasts make the $437 million in proposed tax relief possible, his office said in a news release.
The governor said high gas prices are just part of the “ inflationary pressures ” Virginia families are facing.
“We need to do something real and fast,” said Youngkin, who pumped gas and washed windshields for drivers.
Passage of such a measure would require bipartisan cooperation. Leadership of the Senate Democrats, who control that chamber, neither fully endorsed nor rejected the proposal.
“As final negotiations take place, we need to make sure we can provide relief for Virginians while still maintaining a robust and responsible budget,” Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said in a statement that also emphasized the state’s transportation budget’s reliance on gas tax revenue.
House Speaker Todd Gilbert and House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight backed Youngkin’s pitch.
“With revenues this strong, there’s no reason not to provide as much relief to Virginia’s hard working families as possible as soon as possible,” Knight said in a statement.
House Democrats suggested earlier this month that Youngkin should declare a state of emergency to activate the state’s anti-price gouging law, an action he so far has not taken.
House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn still insists the governor should take that step, her spokesman said Wednesday, since even expedited legislation would take time.
Unable to reach an agreement on the state budget, lawmakers adjourned their regular session Saturday with the intent to reconvene upon the call of the governor once progress has been made.
Youngkin told reporters Wednesday that it wasn’t clear yet when he would call them back.
Youngkin’s office said the governor’s proposal would suspend the motor vehicle fuels tax, which is 26.2 cents per gallon for gasoline and 27 cents for diesel, for May, June and July, then phase it back in.
It would also cap the annual adjustment to the gas tax at no more than 2% per year, according to a news release.
The governor said he was pushing the new approach in lieu of a previous plan that called for suspending a recent gas-tax hike for one year. Senate Democrats had balked at that proposal.