Drivers would welcome a suspension of the gas tax; Louisiana officials react to the idea

Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Amid high gasoline prices calls to suspend the federal and state gasoline taxes pick up steam, but some Louisiana politicians say doing so would create other headaches.

Michele Colbert was asked about gas prices after she stopped at a New Orleans gas station.

“It’s ridiculous. I mean we’re working to pay for gas,” said Colbert.

Now some in the U.S. Congress propose suspending the federal 18.4 cents federal gas tax to give American drivers a break.

Shaun Rapp filled up his truck and said he thinks that is a good idea.

“Anything would help right now, so yeah, if it would decrease the gas prices, of course,” said Rapp.

But U.S. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana who helped craft the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package which President Biden signed into law, does not support the idea of suspending the federal gas tax.

“We’ve committed those dollars to pay for that infrastructure, by the way, Louisiana is going to do very well with this. We’ll get an extra $1.2 billion, I don’t want to lose that money because of a temporary holiday,” said Cassidy.

University of New Orleans economist Walter Lane, PhD., was asked about the impact such a move would have on gas prices.

“I don’t think it makes a lot of a difference; I think it seems like more of a political move. That’s less than 5% of the current price of gasoline,” he said.

However, he said some drivers might feel better even if gas prices drop a little.

“Right now, it’s over $4, it would drop below $4, I think it would be a psychological advantage to that. I think there’s some merit in that possibly, but I don’t think it makes a huge difference,” said Lane.

Besides the federal proposals, some states are suspending the collection of their gas taxes. In the South, Georgia’s senate gave final approval on Thursday to a bill to suspend that state’s gas tax.

“At the state level, I’m a little, I dislike the idea more. The reason is at the federal level they could always print money if they want to do stuff; at the state level we can’t do that and the gas tax in the state does go, you know, to help road construction and road maintenance,” said Lane.

Colbert said the gas prices are affecting her as she drives a lot for her job.

“I’m in the home health field and most of, 90% of my time is going to different people’s houses, so I’m spending a lot on gas,” Colbert stated.

The long-term solution would be for oil prices to drop significantly, something which would be reflected in gas prices eventually.

“And I think that will happen. We’ve already seen, I mean they dropped fairly dramatically in the last couple of days as I thought that they would. It’s going to be a while before it gets back down to, gas gets back down to under $3 but I think we’ve hit the peak,” said Lane.

Governor John Bel Edwards’ Communications Director Shauna Sanford issued the following statement to FOX 8:

“The governor is sensitive to the cost of increased fuel prices for drivers across Louisiana and the nation. Currently, the average Louisiana driver pays about $12.30 per month in state gas taxes. Suspending the gas tax without replacing those operating and matching funds would present several challenges. For example, the gas tax is included in the state’s bond covenants, and suspending the revenue would likely result in a ratings downgrade making additional borrowing more expensive. The ultimate effect would result in fewer dollars being made available for infrastructure projects as the price of work continues to increase. This administration is working to diversify our energy alternatives including electric vehicles and climate change initiatives. However, only the legislature has the authority to make any changes to Louisiana’s gas tax.”

La. House Appropriations Chairman Jerome Zeringue, a Republican from Houma, also commented on the notion of suspending the gas tax in the state.

“It sounds like a good thing but keep in mind that a significant portion of those taxes collected are funding bond issuance and state obligations to repay debt and cannot simply be suspended,” said Zeringue.

Rep. Kyle Green, D-Marrero said.” For me personally, I would be very cautious to support that. Our state tax on a price/gallon is $.20. If we were to suspend that, it would likely have a significant, negative impact to our state budget. "

State Sen. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie also responded to FOX 8 about calls for a gas tax suspension.

“I would love to do it but it’s not legally or financially possible to do at this time,” said Henry.

And Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma said, “I do not support suspending the gas tax.”

Magee added that he has heard other legislators talking about it, but he does not think the idea has broad support.

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