Texas House Democrats call for fuel tax holiday

| 5/2/2006

In pursuit of a price break at the pump, Democrats in the Texas House are calling for a temporary suspension of the state’s per-gallon tax on motor fuels.

Democrats filed a bill that would eliminate the state’s 20-cents-per-gallon tax on diesel and gas for 90 days during the summer. The gas tax brought in about $2.26 billion last year while the diesel tax accounted for $673 million,the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, TX, reported.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said the moratorium would cost the state about $700 million. He told KWTX-TV in Waco, TX, the budget hole could be covered with funding from the Highway Bill that was signed into law by President Bush in August 2005.

The federal government is expected to allot Texas an extra $788 million annually, he said.

A portion of the state’s $8.2 billion surplus also could be tapped.

Gov. Rick Perry would have to expand the agenda of the special session to include discussion on the price break. Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said the governor likely wouldn’t let lawmakers consider anything else during the special session until they resolve how to pay for public education.

“Democrats say they want to better education, but this would take away from it,” Walt told the San Antonio Express-News. “Twenty-five percent of the (fuel) tax is dedicated to education every year, and that could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The fuel tax holiday bill – HB120 – is in the House Ways and Means Committee awaiting consideration.