Mid-South lawmakers pushback against president’s proposal to suspend federal gas tax

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 6:07 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A call on Congress from President Joe Biden to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax is part of a series of steps the president has outlined to try and lower gas prices nationwide.

“Now I fully understand that a gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem, but it is going to provide families some immediate relief, just a little bit of breathing room,” said Biden Wednesday.

The federal gas tax could save Americans about 18- cents on every gallon of regular unleaded.

Biden says he has already released additional barrels of oil from reserves to try to provide some relief at the pump.

He says the country is releasing 1 million barrels of oil per day, but it’s only adding up to a few cents difference at the pump.

“Oohh they’re ridiculous. They’re making you sweat for those prices aren’t they,” said Francie Landa of Memphis.

On average Tennesseans are paying $4.57 per gallon to fill up their tank.

“They are high, but you gotta go to work and you gotta eat and you gotta feed your kids,” said Eddie McGhee.

Many Mid-Southerners say the higher gas prices is certainly starting to affect their daily lives.

“We changed our travel habits and trying to do everything at one time when we go out instead of making several different trips,” said Landa.

Biden made a plea to oil companies and Congress Wednesday to act by encouraging oil companies to not only increase production but also open refineries to turn the oil into gas.

Biden also proposes suspending the 18 cents per gallon federal gas tax for the next three months and encouraging individual states to do the same.

In Tennessee for example, the gas tax is just over 27 cents per gallon.

The President says his entire proposal could decrease gas prices by $1 per gallon.

“This isn’t a fix. It’s a gimmick,” said Tennessee U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn.

The Congresswoman says the price for a gallon of gas has doubled since June 2020 when prices hit historic lows towards the beginning of the pandemic.

In Tennessee efforts for a gas moratorium have fallen on deaf ears.

Last week Governor Bill Lee said efforts already in place should help consumers such as suspending the annual state vehicle registration fee next calendar year and suspending the grocery tax for a month in August.

A spokesperson with Governor Lee’s office said Wednesday, “Ultimately the Biden administration must address the causes of nationwide, 40-year high inflation and reverse damaging federal policies that have drastically reduced our country’s energy independence.”

Plus, the state gas tax produces millions of dollars to repair roads and bridges, but State Senator Raumesh Akbari told Action News 5 last week that temporarily suspending those funds are feasible.

“We’re receiving a considerable amount of infrastructure funds from the federal government, our budget has a surplus,” said Akbari.

In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson said suspending the state gas tax in his state is not possible since the rate is set by law.

His statement said in part:

“The suggestion of President Biden for the states to suspend these taxes is not workable and will not provide the relief intended. The funds generated by gas taxes are committed to ongoing projects and a loss of these revenues would jeopardize the state’s ability to fulfill its obligations.”

Biden says his administration including the energy secretary will be meeting with gas and oil executives Thursday.

He says he will support any viable solutions that may come out of that meeting.

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