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W.Va. Legislative leadership says its not possible to suspend the state’s gasoline tax

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CHARLESTON, W.Va, — Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, joined with House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, in responding to the recent proposal by the Minority leadership from the Senate and House of Delegates to suspend West Virginia’s 35.7-cent gasoline tax for 30 days:

“Every single member of the Legislature is sympathetic to the pain West Virginians are feeling at the gas pump these days. When prices climb, family budgets suffer. It’s something every one of us understands.

We completely support tax reductions, but because of decisions we have made as a Legislature, we cannot just pivot and decide we want to press pause on what is bonded revenue. There are a multitude of legal reasons why we cannot simply suspend our gas tax. We cannot – and should not – implement policies like these that sound good, but in reality, would do far more damage to our state in the long term.

Eliminating this tax for 30 days offers no guarantee that retailers would lower their prices by the same amount. In fact, lowered prices could increase demand, which would result in even higher prices. Additionally, suspending this tax for even a month would cost West Virginia $35 million in revenue, could potentially cause the federal government to claw back allotted highway funds, and would put our bonds for the Roads to Prosperity projects at risk.

After years of decline, the Legislature transferred $220 million to our state road funds in past two budget cycles — a completely unprecedented amount. These funds keep our Division of Highways crews out all year. It should be obvious to anybody driving through our state that Gov. Justice and the Legislature have made roads a top priority. Our residents want their roads done, and we have delivered.

In November, voters across the State of West Virginia will have the opportunity to approve Amendment One, which will put $600 million directly back into the pockets of the people who live and work in this state. That’s real relief for West Virginia residents, not just a break for folks who drive through and stop to buy gas. The leadership of the Senate and House of Delegates has a long-term plan for prosperity for the people of West Virginia, and what we have been doing is working. Median household incomes in West Virginia have increased throughout the past five years, and our personal income tax collections reflect that. The approval of Amendment One gives back even more to the working families within our state. We cannot sacrifice our long-term planning for a short-term fantasy.”

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