How much would a proposed gas tax suspension save drivers in Virginia?

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Posted at 11:10 AM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 11:10:34-04

RICHMOND, Va. - Gas prices remain near record highs across the country and in Virginia. The issue will be central to a special session of the Virginia General Assembly next week, as lawmakers debate how to provide relief for drivers.

At a Northside gas pump on Wednesday, Kyle Bowles shared a truism about life related to his business.

“People are so happy, I’ve never met an unhappy, that’s a truthful statement, a person getting ice cream. They’re dancing half the time,” said Bowles, the GM of Mr. Softee RVA.

Gas prices have slowed his dance a tad of late as the soft-serve ice cream truck runs off both unleaded and diesel gas.

“In a word, it’s brutal truthfully. A year ago, the prices were about $2 less for each one. When you’re driving a truck around that gets nine miles to the gallon and the ice cream machine itself works off diesel, which you saw is $5.09 a gallon, I’m blaming nobody, but it really stinks,” Bowles said. “Truthfully, the ice cream costs are escalating too, shipping, everything else. We’re just doing our best to keep it at a reasonable price, and hopefully, we’ll be able to sustain.”

Like most drivers, Bowles said the pressure at the pump has made them rethink certain parts of their operation.

“I mean if you’re two miles away, I can do ya, but if you’re 20 miles, suddenly that’s a $20 cost between the diesel and gas. Certainly have to factor that in,” Bowles said.

The gas price debate at the capitol will center around Governor Glenn Youngkin’s gas tax holiday proposal. The governor’s office is pitching a suspension for three months of the state’s gasoline and diesel tax, which is 26.2 cents per gallon for gasoline and 27 cents per gallon for diesel.

Youngkin and Republicans said the suspension would lower gas prices for drivers or several dollars each time they fill up their tanks.

However, a study published by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Policy found that around 30% of the savings will go to oil producers and not drivers. Democrats also argue the move would gut transportation funding, which the gas tax goes toward.

Youngkin has said the funding system for road projects currently has a $1 billion surplus, so he argues a gas tax holiday would not negatively impact road work.

Bowles said he’s hopeful lawmakers can find a middle ground.

“The gas tax, that’s a welcome relief for everybody. I don’t think anybody would say that stinks. But I don’t want it to be at the expense of these roads either. I would think that if everybody put their heads together, we’d be able to find a little happy medium where we can address them both,” Bowles said.

If an agreement is reached, Bowles knows the perfect celebratory treat: soft serve.

“People love soft serve, thankfully, and we love them too!” he said.

State lawmakers return to Richmond for the special session on Monday, April 4.