Minnesota joins list of states pursuing pump relief

| 5/19/2006

Add Minnesota to the growing list of states with lawmakers floating the possibility of giving some consumers a little relief at the fuel pump. Truck drivers, however, are not included in the North Star State’s relief plans.

With the price for gasoline averaging nearly $3 per gallon in the state, a Minnesota House lawmaker has introduced a bill that would suspend the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline-based fuels for six months. The same tax on diesel would remain intact.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Kohls, R-Victoria, the bill would invoke a gas tax holiday from July 1 to the end of the year. Such a tax break would cost the state about $317 million in revenue for road work.

Fuel tax revenues are sent to the state’s highway user trust fund, which pay for road work. Kohls’ bill would tap a state account that collects surplus dollars for tax relief to replenish the highway fund.

The bill – HF4186 – is in the House Taxes Committee. A Senate companion bill – SF3807 – is in the Senate Taxes Committee.

Other states where fuel cost relief actions are being sought include:

An Alabama House Democrat has requested that Republican Gov. Bob Riley open a special session so lawmakers can discuss a possible repeal of the state’s fuel tax. Nothing is in writing yet and no word on whether diesel would be included in any tax breaks.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she would consider a legislative effort to suspend the state’s per-gallon tax for the summer. A special session would need to be called for lawmakers to address it. There is no indication yet if it would include taxes on diesel.

Georgia Democrats are calling for a 60-day moratorium on the state’s per gallon taxes on fuel. Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue suspended the collection on fuel for one month last fall.

A Republican hopeful for the Nevada governor’s seat is calling for the state’s portion of the gas tax to be repealed. The proposal doesn’t include diesel.

A Minnesota House lawmaker has introduced a bill that would suspend the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline-based fuels for six months. The same tax on diesel would remain intact.

A Republican gubernatorial hopeful in New Hampshire is calling for a suspension of the state’s per-gallon tax on diesel and gasoline for the summer.

Some Republican lawmakers in New Mexico have plans to push Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson to round up the Legislature for a special session to discuss suspending the state’s tax on fuel. No specific plan has been proposed and it is not known if any tax breaks would include diesel fuel.

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat, has asked state lawmakers to cap the state’s per gallon tax on diesel and gasoline so that the rate will not increase from the current level. The state’s fuel tax can change every six months because a portion is set on recent average wholesale prices. The next change could take place in July. House Democrats also have plans to keep the fuel tax from increasing this year.

Democrats in the Texas House are calling for a 90-day suspension of the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon tax on motor fuels.

While lawmakers in Minnesota discuss offering consumers a price break on gasoline-based fuels, another effort in the state sought to increase the per-gallon price by 6 cents.

Less than a week after the House Taxes Committee approved the higher diesel and gas tax, the House Ways and Means Committee took the tax hike out of a transportation funding bill – HF3761.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, said the plan to increase the tax by 3 cents July 1 and another 3 cents July 1, 2007, wasn’t going to get past Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who vetoed a 10-cent-per-gallon tax increase in 2005.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor