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West Virginia Leaders Skeptical of Gas Tax Holiday

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., takes a question from a reporter as the Senate breaks for the Memorial Day recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 26, 2022. Democrats’ first attempt at responding to the back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, has failed in the Senate. Republicans on Thursday blocked debate on a domestic terrorism bill that would have opened debate on domestic terrorism, hate crimes and gun policy. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

CHARLESTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin told a national news outlet Wednesday that he was not supportive of President Joe Biden’s proposal to suspend the federal gas tax for three months, while Gov. Jim Justice said a gas tax holiday doesn’t solve the problem of rising fuel prices long term. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito also disagrees with the idea.

The White House on Wednesday asked Congress for a three-month freeze of the federal gas tax, beginning in July and ending in September. The tax is 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24 cents per gallon of diesel fuel.

Pausing the federal gas tax would require congressional action.

In the U.S. Senate where Republicans and Democrats have a 50/50 split, any proposal likely would need the support of Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin told ABC News that he was not ready to throw his support behind a gas tax holiday.

“I’m not a yes right now, that’s for sure,” Manchin said, a comment which his office later confirmed. “It goes off at the end of September. Which politician up here is going to be voting to put that 18-cent tax back on a month before the November election? So, we just dig the hole deeper and deeper and deeper.”

Revenue from the federal gas tax goes into the Highway Trust Fund. According to the White House, Biden believes that $10 billion in additional federal dollars can be diverted to keep the Highway Trust Fund whole during the three-month holiday.

The Biden administration placed blame for higher gas prices on the Russian war on Ukraine driving up the cost of crude oil prices. According to MarketWatch, crude oil prices Wednesday sat at around $106 per barrel.

Capito, R-W.Va., took to the Senate floor Wednesday evening to criticize the gas tax freeze proposal. She accused the Biden administration of finger-pointing instead of acknowledging their own failures when it comes to stifling energy production in the U.S.

“They’ve pointed fingers at energy producers and refiners with claims of price gouging,” Capito said. “They pointed fingers at (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, despite the fact that gas prices were steadily rising months before the invasion of Ukraine. The White House has been content to keep finger-pointing while refusing to take responsibility for their own actions. They know their actions are causing pain.”

Biden also called for states to provide some kind of relief to motorists, including suspending state gas taxes. The White House pointed to efforts in Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Colorado, Michigan, and Minnesota. But in West Virginia, the idea of a gas tax — even for 30 days — has been a no-go for state Republican leaders.

Speaking Wednesday during his virtual briefing, Justice put the blame for higher gas prices on the Biden administration’s attitude toward fossil fuels. Biden set a goal last year for the U.S. to be carbon-neutral by 2035.

“The Biden administration moved in and cut everyone off at their knees, whether they were coal producers, gas producers, or oil producers or whatever it may be,” Justice said.

“Now we’re going to come with a federal gas tax holiday … and throw us a teeny little bone? That’s all it is — it’s just nothing.”

According to AAA, gas prices in West Virginia sat at $4.90 per gallon, down slightly from $4.93 per gallon last week, but up from $4.46 per gallon a month ago.

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