Rhode Island rolling back fuel tax?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, March 21, 2014

At a time when state lawmakers throughout the country are contemplating charging more tax on fuel purchases, a Rhode Island legislator is bucking the trend.

Sen. Walter Felag, D-Warren, introduced a bill that would trim the state’s 32-cent-per-gallon fuel tax rate by 5 cents.

Felag said the change is needed to help support fuel stations. He said that dropping the tax rate to 27 cents would persuade more truckers and other drivers to fuel up in the state instead of neighboring Massachusetts where the tax rate is about six cents cheaper.

“Bringing in higher taxes from drivers may be one way to get more money into the state treasury, but it’s not very sensible if it puts local businesses at risk because drivers are heading to Massachusetts to save money,” Felag said in a news release.

In addition to aiding small businesses, he said it wouldn’t hurt to give drivers a break at the pump too.

The bill, S2027, is in the Senate Finance Committee.

Another issue drawing attention at the statehouse is electronic proof of insurance. House lawmakers approved two bills that would allow proof of financial responsibility to be made available to police using a phone or mobile device.

The option for digital proof of insurance is growing in popularity. More and more insurance companies offer apps for customers to download on electronic devices.

According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, 31 states have adopted the policy.

The first bill, H7125, would free motorists and truckers traveling in Rhode Island from having to carry the traditional paper proof of insurance to avoid a ticket.

“Almost everyone has access to a mobile device these days,” stated Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-Hopkinton. “I think being able to use their phone or tablet to provide proof of insurance is common sense.”

The second bill, H7098, would prohibit police from viewing any other content on the devices. It would also relieve law enforcement from any liability for damage to an electronic device when it’s presented as proof of insurance.

The bills await further consideration in the Senate.

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