New push for Sen. Mark Kelly’s gas tax relief bill as prices surge

More Democrats are jumping on board the idea from Sen. Mark Kelly to suspend the gas tax but some wonder about how much of an impact it'll make.
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 7:35 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) - With gas prices at record highs across the U.S., an increasing number of governors and state lawmakers are calling for the suspension of gas taxes to provide relief to motorists who are facing the prospect of even higher pump prices as the country cuts off Russian oil imports. Proposals for a “gas tax holiday” to counter inflation had been moving slowly in Congress and state capitols before Russia invaded Ukraine, but they have gained momentum this week amid surging prices that averaged $4.25 a gallon on Wednesday, according to AAA.

The bill, Gas Prices Relief Act, was introduced at the beginning of February by Sen. Mark Kelly. If the bill is passed, it will suspend the federal gas tax, shaving roughly 18 cents off every gallon of gas you buy through next January. However, according to AAA, Arizona is continuing to break records, hitting an average of about $4.40 a gallon on Wednesday. It’s been about a month since Arizona’s Family first told you about this bill, and Sen. Kelly’s office tells us there is not yet a date set for a vote.

“And this legislation that I’m introducing today is an opportunity for us to save Americans money because gas prices are just too high,” Senator Kelly said in early February.

This week, six Democratic governors urged congressional leaders to support Sen. Kelly’s bill that would suspend the 18.4 cent gallon tax through the rest of the year. Critics of the proposals say there is no guarantee the savings would get passed on to consumers and worry that suspending gas taxes could hurt funding for road projects. Even so, the eye-popping prices at the pump are prompting lawmakers to act.

Governor Doug Ducey’s office tells Arizona’s Family there are things that could and should be done to boost domestic oil production, like restoring Keystone Pipeline, but it dismisses this as a short-term gimmick with only a minimal impact on Arizonan’s pocketbooks.

Dennis Hoffman, an economist at Arizona State University, says the gas tax goes back decades and helped finance the freeway system across the U.S. “If you track projects in the state of Arizona, we receive a ton of federal financing for our transportation projects,” he said.

Senator Kelly’s office says the law allocates billions to pay for infrastructure projects, as critics worry it could hurt funding for road improvements.

Hoffman adds that more attention needs to be focused on a solution that deals with the decreasing gas supply. He also says the bill has pros and cons, both short and long term. “Some people call it a gimmick, some people will say, ‘Oh well, it’s just temporary relief, and it’s necessary in a time of need’… I think that most drivers will find relief by simply driving a bit less in this period,” he said.

Arizona’s Family asked the Arizona Department of Transportation how much money it gets from the federal gas tax every year. In an email, a spokesperson says it doesn’t know the exact figure, but federal fuel taxes represent the majority of revenue in the Federal Highway Trust Fund. In recent years it says Arizona has gotten about $800 million from that fund which is used to pay for ADOT transportation programs. If the tax is suspended, ADOT says it’s too early to speculate on specific impacts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.