West Virginia House Democrats want Gov. Jim Justice to add their gasoline tax relief plan to the special session agenda, which began Monday.
“There [were] a lot of bills added to this special call,” Del. Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, said during a news conference. “Unfortunately, the people’s voices were not heard.”
Skaff and several other House Democrats held their news conference directly in front of the governor’s office. Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for gas tax relief for more than a month and publicly and privately asked Justice to add it to a special session agenda. House Democrats sent a draft of their legislation to the governor’s office and said he still has the ability to include it in the agenda. Only the governor can add legislation to the special session agenda.
“[People are] struggling right now,” Skaff said. “We hear from everybody. It’s not a partisan issue like we’ve said before. We don’t care who takes credit. Let’s just talk about it, work together as West Virginians and give the most relief we can and we’re very disappointed we did not see that on the call.”
The proposed relief bill, which has support from House and Senate Democrats, would temporarily suspend the gas tax for 30 days to partially alleviate high prices at the pump. The average cost for a gallon of gas in West Virginia is nearly $3.94, according to AAA. Although the cost has gone down over the past month, the per-gallon cost is still about $1.16 higher than it was one year ago.
West Virginia taxes 35.7 cents on every gallon of gas and lawmakers believe a temporary suspension would immediately lower prices for consumers like it did in other states that passed similar bills, such as Maryland. The plan would cost the state about $35 million in revenue that would have gone to the road fund, but would offset those losses by putting state surplus money in the road fund. The state’s surplus is about $600 million.
“We have the money to do it,” Skaff said.
Del. Joey Garcia, D-Marion, said the state can afford to provide this tax relief without hurting the road fund because of the money in the surplus. He said that, after the regular session, the gas tax was the main concern his constituents were talking about.
Back in March, Justice alleged that the Democratic plan was a “political stunt,” but ultimately said he would support gas tax relief. He said he did not have the executive authority to do it himself, which was contested by Democrats, but said he would immediately call the legislature into a special session to introduce a plan if they wanted to do it. He did not call a special session, despite repeated requests from Democrats, and did not include it in any other special session agenda.
Democratic lawmakers have said they’re open to alternative gas tax relief plans, such as a rebate for drivers. However, they said lawmakers cannot have any fruitful debate on the matter unless the governor adds the item to the legislative agenda for the special session.
This article was originally posted on West Virginia Dems want gas tax relief added to agenda