Virginia politicians continue to squabble over how to help residents with the rising cost of gas prices. Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to suspend the gas tax for three months, but Democrats in the House of Delegates released a proposal morning that would provide rebates directly to vehicle owners. The legislation would direct the Virginia Department of the Treasury to distribute rebate payments of $50 per vehicle with a limit of two vehicles per household.
“The governor has refused to protect consumers despite repeated requests for the past month,” said House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn. “House Democrats have stepped up to fill this void in leadership by offering a plan that benefits Virginia consumers directly at a fraction of the cost to the commonwealth.”
The plan from Democrats excludes electric vehicles and applies only to gas or diesel and hybrid cars and trucks. As for helping small businesses, a spokesperson for the House Democratic Caucus pointed Virginia Scope to the current law that already states the gas tax is fully refunded for vehicles that are: government owned, used to provide public transit, used by agencies to transport aging and disabled, used by public or nonprofit private school for transport of students, used by volunteer fire-fighters and EMS, off-road equipment used on job site and in agriculture, racing cars, vehicles owned by 501(c)(3) organizations providing food.
The General Assembly is currently in a special session so lawmakers can finish the two-year budget and pass nearly 50 outstanding bills. This proposal from House Democrats would be a substitute for HB 6001.
Governor Youngkin wants to use $437 million in unanticipated transportation revenue to pay for a suspension of the gas tax in Virginia for three months. He has introduced legislation in both the House and Senate that would accomplish that goal during the special session.
His office criticized the plan from House Democrats Friday. “The governor appreciates that Democrats are finally realizing the impact rising costs are having on Virginians, but their new brainchild does nothing to lower gas prices and is ripe for fraud,” said Youngkin’s press secretary, Macaulay Porter. “Just yesterday even New York Democrats confirmed a gas tax holiday is the best way to deliver lower prices at the pump immediately. If Democrats in Virginia were serious about helping Virginians they’d suspend the gas tax and also deliver the billions in tax relief Virginia veterans, workers and families deserve.”
At a tax rate of $26.2 cents, a $50 payment would cover the gas tax for 190 gallons of regular fuel. Democrats say this would cost much less than Youngkin’s plan. “After years of studies and negotiations, Virginia is finally in a position to properly fund transportation infrastructure and Governor Youngkin’s plan risks undoing all of that bipartisan work,” House Democrats said in a press release.
House Republicans criticized the plan from Democrats on social media. “Democrats have done everything in their power to make abundant energy sources less available and more expensive, but as always, they purport to have a plan to fix the problem they’ve created,” Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert tweeted.
A spokesperson for Gilbert provided an additional comment to Virginia Scope. “Democrats have offered fact-free claims that a gas tax holiday won’t lower prices, or that oil companies will benefit most, or that Virginians are the victims of price gouging,” said Garren Shipley, the communications director for Gilbert. “In reality, places like Maryland, Connecticut, and Georgia have all suspended their gas taxes and the price of gas has gone down. Even New York has gotten on board.”
Democrats say this is a good way to get the money directly to Virginians instead of depending on oil companies to lower prices. “Gas prices are hurting everyone- drivers deserve relief. Our plan makes sure all the money goes directly into your pocket and doesn’t trickle down to you after oil companies, distributors, and retailers decide how much they want to pass along,” said Del. Marcus Simon (D).
Senate Democrats did not provide a comment on their stance on the House proposal. A spokesperson for the Senate Democratic Caucus referred Virginia Scope to this statement from March 16. “As final negotiations take place, we need to make sure we can provide relief for Virginians while still maintaining a robust and responsible budget,” said Senate Majority Leader, Dick Saslaw. “Senate Democrats look forward to working with Governor Youngkin, Senate Republicans, and the House of Delegates to achieve these and many other goals. Let’s get to work.”
It is unclear when legislators will meet again for the special session. They have not convened since Monday.
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