States weigh whether to cut gasoline taxes
Officials in six states have floated ideas to trim or suspend them for the summer.
With a gallon of gas breaking $3 and voters unhappy, state leaders across the country are taking a sudden, sharp dislike to gasoline taxes, proposing to eliminate the levies that are a mainstay for road programs -- or at least suspend them for the summer.
Governors have floated ideas to trim or suspend state gas taxes in Maryland, South Carolina and Connecticut. State legislators are pushing similar measures in Georgia, New York and Nevada. The proposals are winning vocal support from Republicans and Democrats alike, though none have yet become law.
"We think it would have real bottom-line benefit to a lot of working families who are struggling with the price of gas," South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said on Wednesday, when he proposed suspending the state's 16.8 cent-per-gallon tax for three months.
Critics say the proposal is a mistake, questioning whether drivers would actually see the tax cut, the potential to undermine necessary road and transportation programs and the larger environmental impact.
Still, with elections later this year, the popularity of the idea was made clear in South Carolina when the Republican governor -- who's been unable to win support for a number of other proposed tax cuts -- quickly won bipartisan support for his proposal.
"I feel like I'm the evangelist who's been singing at the country tent. Welcome to the tent," Sanford said after a news conference that grew so jammed it had to be moved from his office into the statehouse lobby outside. "There's a lot of energy around this issue."
In other states:
New York lawmakers agreed Wednesday to cap the sales tax at 8 cents per gallon, freezing the tax at the rate paid when gas costs $2 a gallon. Lawmakers said that would save consumers $450 million a year.
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat, wants to cap the gas tax and said he'll include a proposal in his budget proposal this week.
Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, threatened to call a special session on energy issues and said she is open to a legislative proposal to suspend the state's 25 cent-per-gallon tax for the summer.
Georgia Democrats are demanding GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue suspend the gas tax, as he did after the spike in prices that followed Hurricane Katrina.
Other states where the idea has been raised include Texas, Minnesota, Delaware and Idaho.
The gas tax is the most widespread target as constituent anger grows over gas prices, but it's not the only measure being considered.
California zeroed in on oil companies when a key legislative committee approved a windfall profits tax aimed at oil producers. Several state attorneys general have begun investigations into price-gouging.
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