10 cents more? Gas tax increase being considered

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Think the price of gas is high now? The Virginia General Assembly is looking at raising it another ten cents per gallon.

If you drive on the roads, you should pay for the roads. That's the idea behind the gasoline tax. Now, at least two state lawmakers want to raise Virginia's portion of the tax, which has stayed the same since the 1980's.

The extra money -perhaps up to another dime per gallon- would pay for road projects, but talk around the Capitol is that lawmakers will put the brakes on it.

Sandy Tuck is paying a lot of money to fill up her car, and for her, another ten pennies per gallon, doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

"I think gas is high enough, I don't understand why the tax has to be even higher," said Tuck, of Chesterfield.

Sandy just learned about two ideas, authored by Democrats in the General Assembly. One - is to make the gas tax a percentage of the average per-gallon price. The other is to raise it by a dime: from 17, to 27 cents per gallon.

AAA is in favor of raising the gas tax, as long as the money is used to pay for road projects.

"[It is] certainly not our goal to add an additional burden to the motorists, but rather to protect them and protect their safety," said AAA's Martha Meade.

The higher tax would generate millions to fix roads, with one basic estimate costing drivers $78 to $93 more per year, based on filling up the average 15-18 gallon tank once a week.

Megan Benson says she'd be glad to pay it.

"Everybody's tired of taxes but, the roads are really bad here so they need to be fixed," said Benson, of Mechanicsville.

Gas tax increases have been tried before with little success. And this year they also face a very difficult test in the General Assembly, and with the governor.

A higher tax would affect not only the price at the pump, but also the cost of goods and services. John Watkins is a Republican senator who would vote against it.

"Family budgets have been resized, businesses have been resized. And they've done it with the resources that they currently have," said Watkins, R-Powhatan.

Watkins' sense is that a higher gas tax has little chance of passing, a reality already accepted by those who support it.

"We're not holding our breath," said Meade.

Virginia's gas tax remains one of the lowest in the country. If it went up by a dime, it would then hover around the U.S. average. However, an increase is not supported by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

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