Democrat governors, candidates prioritize methods to alleviate high gas prices
The national average per gallon of gas currently sits under just $5 a gallon
As pressure mounts for the Biden administration to take action against record-high gas prices, both Democratic governors and candidates running in states across the country are aiming to ease the pain at the pump by implementing or promoting plans that would reduce the economic burdens Americans face with rising energy costs.
Earlier this week, as data from AAA showed the average price per gallon of gas sitting just under $5, President Biden called on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax until September. There is currently an 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on gas and a 24.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on diesel fuel.
Aligned with Biden's plea to Congress, which many have expressed skepticism over, other Democrats have spoken out and offered support for plans to assist Americans as they combat rising gas prices ahead of several contentious midterm elections taking place later this year.
Kicking off a statewide gas tax holiday earlier this month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the suspension of certain gas taxes within the Empire State.
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Under the plan, which Hochul's office said would result in a reduction of at least $0.16 per gallon statewide, the motor fuel excise tax, the state sales tax, and the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District sales tax on motor fuel and diesel motor fuel were suspended until the end of the year. The changes began taking effect in the state on June 1.
"Fuel prices have surged in recent months, hurting working families and small businesses the most, and it is crucial that we provide New Yorkers relief," Hochul said in a statement. "By suspending certain fuel taxes for the next seven months, New York is providing some $609 million in direct relief to New Yorkers — a critical lifeline for those who need it most."
Similarly, far in advance of Hochul's announcement, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed emergency legislation to suspend his state's $0.25 gas tax in March. The move to suspend the tax on gasoline in the state took effect on April 1 and was slated to last until June 30, but it was extended in late April to last until Dec. 1 at a cost of $150 million after Lamont and the Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate agreed on a budget deal.
Upon signing the measure, Lamont touted the decision as the "right thing to do" and later suggested the state's budget deal, valued at $24 billion, is "going to take care of folks most in need."
Lamont has also issued a television ad promoting certain tax cuts in the state, placing emphasis on the one related to gasoline.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has also attempted to make a difference in how much Americans are paying at the pump in the Bluegrass State, placing a freeze on the state's gas tax, which was originally set to increase from $0.26 to $0.28 in July.
Like his counterpart in Connecticut, Beshear also said the freeze, which is estimated to save Kentucky families $35 million and will remain in effect until at least January, was the "right thing to do" and told residents in the state that while "it is primarily out of our control as a state to decrease gas prices, this is a step that we can and we must take to prevent them from further increasing."
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While solutions from the White House remain stagnant, congressional and gubernatorial candidates, including some of the more vocal members from Biden's party, are also making it clear that swift action must be taken.
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In Florida, Nikki Fried, a Democrat gubernatorial hopeful, lashed out at Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March and accused him of making residents in the Sunshine State "wait until October" before taking action to lower gasoline costs. "While other states have already suspended their gas taxes, DeSantis is making us wait until October," Fried wrote in a tweet. "If I were governor, gas tax relief would be in effect, and I’d be working to provide a gas rebate. Floridians are hurting at the pump today and deserve relief now."
Last month, DeSantis signed into law a package that included a number of tax holidays. As a part of the package, the state's gas sales tax is set to be suspended in October.
In similar remarks shared earlier this year, Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who is now seeking to helm the state as a Democrat, also criticized DeSantis, who he claimed "did nothing" to lower gasoline costs. "Florida’s average gas prices hit a 7 year high in 2021 — and while we were calling for a state gas tax freeze, @GovRonDeSantis did nothing for hard-working Floridians being squeezed at the pump," Crist wrote in a January tweet.
In an attempt to provide immediate relief for Ohio families, Nan Whaley, the Buckeye State's Democratic nominee for governor who will face off against incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in November, suggested this month that the governor utilize funds from the American Rescue Plan to issue one-time $350 checks to residents in the state.
"This isn't rocket science. … We need common-sense solutions to help folks struggling with rising costs," Whaley said. "This payment would go to the same folks who received the federal stimulus checks last year. That's about 7.4 million Ohioans, or 89% of Ohio families."
Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania's attorney general and the 2022 Democratic nominee for governor of the state, has also placed great focus on cutting taxes, including those related to gasoline.
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Under a plan pushed heavily on the campaign trail in the last few months, Shapiro called for a $250 gas tax refund for up to four passenger vehicles. "As Governor, I'm going to cut your taxes — and send you a $250 check for every passenger car you own, up to four cars," Shapiro wrote in a May tweet.
Democrats aren't the only ones making moves to ease costs. In March, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law to suspend Georgia's fuel tax through the end of May. He later moved to extend the suspension until mid-July, but Stacey Abrams, his Democratic challenger in the November general election, claimed that is not enough. Abrams, according to a report from Axios, said Kemp is using the state gas tax "as a political football" and insisted that he "should suspend the state gas tax through the end of the year."