Fuel tax holiday effort dies in Texas, other states push on

| 5/26/2006

The Texas Legislature has wrapped up a 29-day special session without taking up a bill that called for temporarily suspending the state’s per-gallon tax on motor fuels.

House Democrats filed a bill during the session that would have eliminated the state’s 20-cent-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, though, declined to expand the agenda of the special session to include discussion on the tax break. Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said the governor was committed to resolving how to pay for public education.

The fuel tax holiday bill – HB120 – was in the House Ways and Means Committee awaiting consideration when the special session ended.

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 on diesel and gasoline for the summer. A special session would need to be called for lawmakers to address it.

In Delaware, the House Speaker has introduced a bill that would suspend the state’s excise tax on diesel and gasoline for June through September. The state now collects 22 cents per gallon on diesel and 23 cents per gallon on gasoline.

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 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 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.

In New Hampshire, a Republican gubernatorial hopeful is calling for a suspension of the state’s 18-cent-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 diesel and gasoline.

New York Gov. George Pataki’s signed a bill into law “capping” the sales tax on diesel and gasoline. The sales tax cap calls for the state to add sales tax to only the first $2 worth of a gallon of diesel or gasoline. That would cap the tax at 8 cents per gallon – saving consumers about 4 cents per gallon at current prices. For counties and local governments, the cap is optional. The new rule takes effect June 1.

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.

In South Carolina, a bill sent to a House-Senate conference committee would cut prices at the pump for three months. Sought by Gov. Mark Sanford, the effort would suspend the state’s 16.75-cent tax on diesel and gasoline from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor