State Sen. Patrick O'Connor, R- Weymouth, said Massachusetts's 24-cent gasoline tax should be suspended until Labor Day to ease motorists' financial pressure from rising fuel costs and overall inflation.
“Massachusetts is in a strong financial position to give tax dollars back to taxpayers,” he said. “We are in this position because of the hard work and ingenuity of the state’s taxpayers. They should get their hard-earned dollars back.”
O’Connor said the American Automobile Association reports the average price of gasoline in Massachusetts is $4.25 per gallon.
“A year ago, it was $2:76 per gallon, which included a 24 cent gas tax," he said. "If we got rid of the gas tax, the cost would be a little over $4 a gallon."
Gas prices in Massachusetts and across the nation have been on the rise since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.
The gas prices in Massachusetts shot up to an average high of $4.36 a gallon on Mar. 11, but the expense is slowly ticking downward, according to AAA.
Senate rejects gas tax suspension
State Sen. Ryan Fattman, R- Sutton, proposed efforts to suspend Massachusetts's gas tax in an amendment to a $1.7 billion state supplemental budget.
Republicans in Massachusetts have been pushing for weeks to suspend the state's gas tax in the face of those price spikes but have met resistance from Democrats who have called it a "gimmick" and raised concerns about violating the terms of the state's bond agreements.
State senators approved the budget on Mar. 24, but they voted 29-11 to reject the amendment.
Democratic Sens. Paul Feeney, Barry Finegold, Anne Gobi, Mark Montigny, Michael Moore, Marc Pacheco, Walter Timilty, and John Velis supported the gas tax suspension.
Efforts to seek gas tax suspension
O’Connor said lawmakers who support the tax relief measure hope to get it approved through an amendment to another state supplemental or fiscal year budget.
"There will be more votes," he said. "This was our first crack at this, and my hope is it will gain support and become a reality. I think the hardworking taxpayer in Massachusetts deserves this little reprieve while the cost of goods goes through the roof.
O’Connor said Massachusetts has “plenty of surplus revenue we can give back in the form of gas relief.”
“We increased our Chapter 90 ( state roadway funds) from $200 million to $300 million this year,” he said. “We have an abundance of surplus revenue to cover the gas tax without having to cut anything.”
O’Connor said Massachusetts received $2 billion through the American Rescue Plan of 2021, the COVID-19 Stimulus Package that President Biden approved last year.
"Our state stabilization account has $6.6 billion, and our state surplus is over $700 million this year," he said. "We have plenty of surplus revenue that we can give back."
Weymouth resident Adam Casey said he believes the state can afford to suspend the gas tax.
“We have $700 million in surplus funds,” he said. “Everybody needs a break on paying taxes.
Weymouth resident Fred Padula said he is not sure how some lawmakers don't believe a gas tax suspension would help the state's economy.
“Any measure to reduce the cost would help,” he said. “I usually spend $40 a week to buy gas.”
Objections to gas tax suspension
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Michael Rodrigues told his colleagues that the amendment “might sound good and feel good, but you are not providing any real relief,"
"Do you all trust the oil companies?" Rodrigues asked his colleagues before they rejected the amendment.
Rodrigues, a Westport Democrat, said Wall Street and bond rating agencies would look unfavorably on the move to backfill lost gas tax revenue with future surplus funds.
He also said there was no guarantee that the savings would get passed on to motorists.
The amendment was opposed by Democratic State Sens Sonia Chang-Diaz, Adam Hinds, Eric Lesser, and Diana DiZoglio.
Sen. Brendan Crighton, a Lynn Democrat and co-chair of the Transportation Committee, echoed concerns about the state's bond rating being impacted by the suspension of the gas tax and distrust of major oil companies.
"I do feel the cost of doing this far outweighs the relatively small and unpredictable benefit because there's no guarantee this would reach the consumer," Crighton said.
Original source: https://www.wickedlocal.com/story/weymouth-news/2022/03/31/weymouth-state-senator-patrick-oconnorurges-gas-tax-suspension-in-massachusetts-through-labor-day/7204704001/