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As Summer Approaches, Virginians Still Await Gas Tax Relief

As reported in The Roanoke Star, Virginia remains tied at all-time record high gas prices. When the article was posted on May 24, the average price for a gallon of gas in Roanoke was $4.35/gallon, up 12 cents from the previous week. As a reference, the price was $3.87 last month but only $2.88 last year.

The Memorial Day holiday was instituted to remember fallen servicemembers who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. However, over the years, the three-day weekend has taken on a new meaning: the start of summer and vacation driving. Therefore, Memorial Day 2022 has the dubious distinction of being the most expensive summer driving kick-off weekend ever in American history.

Numerous factors play into the price of gas, but the amount of state tax per gallon plays one key role. As reported here on May 3, Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) and the GOP-led House of Delegates have called for a gas tax “holiday.” The proposal, as championed by Sen. Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg), would have eliminated the 26.2 cent-per-gallon tax on gas during all of May, June and July, the peak of the summer driving season, then half of the original tax in August, three-fourths in September, and resumed the full gas tax in October.

However, in an April 27 vote in a key Senate committee, all 11 Democrats and Republican Emmet Hanger (Augusta) voted to kill the proposed tax relief.

With the Virginia General Assembly having dismissed earlier in the spring without having created a state budget, the overall budget, temporary gas tax relief, and permanent end to the grocery tax are all still in limbo.

Addressing this issue, the Governor’s Spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told The Roanoke Star: “The governor hopes the General Assembly can reach a budget soon that includes needed tax and gas relief for Virginians. I would also refer you to the governor’s previous comments:”

“The Democratic leadership does not understand what’s going on in Virginians’ lives. We’ve got runaway inflation on the grocery shelf, at the gas pump, and in their utility bills. Every aspect of their lives is seeing cost pressure. Yes, it’s driven by terrible policies out of Washington. Virginians are feeling it every day. And the best way that we can provide relief is to cut taxes, and we should cut taxes where they’re incurred, at the gas pump, on the grocery aisle, in filing taxes where we can double the standard deduction, and we can provide a massive tax refund because we’ve overtaxed people.”

Kendall Bailey, PhD., Legislative Assistant to Del. Chris Head (R-Botetourt/Roanoke) made the following statements to help readers of The Roanoke Star to better understand the current budget impasse.

“As was announced yesterday [May 24], the Special Session will reconvene on June 1st presumably to address conference reports on the budget bills and a few other bills still outstanding (most of which include provisions that involve appropriations in the budget bills).”

“With this understanding, the conference reports on the budget bills (HB 29 and HB 30) will be released at least 48 hours before June 1st for legislators to review them. Each chamber will then act on the conference reports and if passed, then the budget bills would go to the Governor for his review and amendments. And then back to the House and Senate for actions on the Governor’s amendments.”

“The Commonwealth’s current budget year ends on June 30th.”

“For your reference, the conferee’s conference report of the proposed budget bills will eventually be available here:  https://budget.lis.virginia.gov/ for review, providing legislators with at least 48 hours of time to review before any voting.”

This gridlock in Richmond has created numerous dilemmas.

One, with the state budget year ending June 30, the General Assembly’s reconvening on June 1 already puts state agencies and planners in a bind as they will have less than one month to know their future funding and how fully they will be able to operate and hire.

Two, with only 48 hours promised to review the proposed budgets, some observers wonder how thoroughly the legislators can read and cull the voluminous details and figures.

And three, regardless of what happens in June, the opportunity for gas tax relief during May has already been squandered.

Plus, while the politicians wrestle with this imbroglio, countless Virginians will be hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend with gas prices hovering well over the record-breaking $4 per gallon.

Gas Pains: Filling up an SUV in Roanoke County, April 1, 2022
Gas Pains: Filling up an SUV in Roanoke County at $3.99/gal., April 1, 2022

-Scott Dreyer

 

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