Oklahoma lawmaker proposes emergency relief on fuel taxes

| Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Proposals to cut prices at the pump are popping up throughout the country as lawmakers try to appease fed up constituents who are paying more than $3 per gallon of fuel in many areas.

In Oklahoma , a state senator has proposed suspending the collection of motor fuel taxes in the state for the final three months of the year.

Meanwhile, voters in the state head to the polls Tuesday, Sept. 13, to cast ballots on whether to boost the state’s fuel taxes to help fix roads and bridges.

If approved by voters, State Question 723, would raise Oklahoma ’s diesel and gasoline taxes to 22 cents a gallon. Currently, the diesel tax is 14 cents per gallon and the gasoline tax is 17 cents per gallon.

The tax increase would be phased in gradually over four years.

In hopes of easing skyrocketing fuel prices, Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan wants Gov. Brad Henry to expand the current special session call to address price spikes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Morgan, D-Stillwater, wants to dip into the state’s constitutional Rainy Day fund to cover the $103 million in losses the Sooner State would take if it were to temporarily eliminate the state’s taxes on gasoline and diesel.

Henry called Morgan’s plan “an intriguing idea.” The Democratic governor’s administration is studying whether high fuel prices fit the definition of an emergency required for lawmakers to access rainy day money, The Associated Press reported.

“If we can legally do that, it very well may be something that we will proceed with,” Henry said.

Morgan told The Daily Ardmoreite using $103 million of the $461 million Rainy Day fund will ensure that road and bridge money is not affected.

However, Oklahoma wouldn’t be doing truckers any real favors by not collecting the fuel tax. Truckers would still be required to report and pay for their International Fuel Tax Agreement – IFTA – miles in the state.

Simply put: If a fuel tax holiday is granted, truckers who buy fuel in Oklahoma won’t be paying for the tax on the front end, but they would have to pay for it later through IFTA quarterly filings. And that goes for any state that doesn’t waive IFTA miles.

“As more states are looking closely at the possibility of fuel tax holidays, truckers need to be aware that the savings they may realize at the pump could be short-lived,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA.

“Even though you don’t pay the tax on the front end, if you’re running through states that have not waived it, you could wind up owing a sizeable chunk on your quarterly reports.”

Oklahoma isn’t alone in its pursuit of combating higher prices at the pump brought on by Hurricane Katrina.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has issued a month-long moratorium on the state’s 7.5-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. Unlike proposals in other states, the order also includes a suspension of the state’s 4 percent sales tax on fuel until the end of September. The tax breaks will cost the state about $75 million in tax revenue.

Other states considering fuel cost relief actions include:

  • Republicans in Wisconsin are pushing a plan to give residents a fuel tax holiday for the rest of the year. However, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle wants to repeal the state’s minimum markup requirement for diesel and gasoline.
  • Effective Sept. 1, a new Hawaii law limits the wholesale price of gasoline, making it the first state in the nation to limit prices. The cap does not apply to diesel.
  • A New Jersey lawmaker is considering legislation that would mimic Hawaii ’s price cap – and include diesel fuel.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said he may ask state lawmakers to temporarily lift the state’s per-gallon fuel tax.
  • Democrats in the Missouri House want a two-week fuel tax holiday that would cut the state’s 17-cent-a-gallon tax on diesel and gasoline to 7 cents a gallon.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
keith_goble@landlinemag.com
Land Line staff editor Jami Jones contributed to this report.

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