The Bulletin

Youngkin calls for emergency three-month suspension of Virginia’s gas tax

By: - March 16, 2022 2:51 pm

Gov. Glenn Youngkin pumped gas in Henrico County in March to call attention to his new proposal for a 3-month gas tax holiday. (Photo by Graham Moomaw)

Saying Virginians need immediate relief from higher gas prices, Gov. Glenn Youngkin called Wednesday for a three-month suspension of Virginia’s entire gas tax, a move that would cut about 26 cents off each gallon at a roughly $437 million cost to the state.

Youngkin made the announcement at a Henrico County gas station, where he pumped gas for a handful of drivers to call attention to an issue he still has to negotiate with the Democratic-led Senate.

The governor had previously called for a temporary suspension of a 5-cent increase in the state’s gas tax, but that idea failed to gain traction in the Senate. Youngkin said his new proposal — which will come via emergency legislation introduced in the coming weeks whenever the General Assembly reconvenes for a special session — replaces his earlier plan and would give Virginia drivers a break “right now.”

“We’re at a moment where we need to do something real and fast,” Youngkin said.

Bipartisan calls to suspend state and federal gas taxes have been growing in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which helped send already-rising gas prices above $4 a gallon.

Youngkin said he hopes his own proposal could win bipartisan support, insisting there’s “plenty of money in the system” for Virginia to take emergency action without cutting too deeply into transportation funding.

“We’re heading into summer. We’re coming out of COVID. We’ve got to get people out and moving again,” Youngkin said.

In a statement Wednesday, Senate Democrats struck a cautious note without rejecting Youngkin’s proposal outright. Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, noted fuel costs have started falling in recent days and added any relief could not jeopardize “a robust and responsible budget.”

“The commonwealth’s transportation budget relies on gas tax revenue; in my district, the region can’t currently maintain our current infrastructure much less any new construction,” Saslaw said. “Some roads even look like a war has been fought on them.”

Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, noted gas-tax holidays are under consideration in many other states and at the federal level, but added “we must also take into account the long-term impacts on our infrastructure budget such a measure would bring.

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.