Obenshain Leads Fight Against Senate Gas Tax Hike
For Immediate Release:
February 15, 2008
The legislation, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), called for the tax increase -- 5 cents per gallon -- to be phased in over five years, during which time it is projected to cost taxpayers over one billion dollars.
Senate Republican Whip, Senator Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) led Republican opposition to the bill. Obenshain commented that "the backdrop for Friday's vote is the larger debate over Virginia's biennial budget. The budget proposed by the Governor and his Democratic allies in the Senate comes at a time of sluggish state revenues, cuts in law enforcement, transportation and health care spending, however, it is filled with hundreds of millions in spending for new programs. It is disingenuous to plead poverty in order to pass a gas tax hike while continuing to spend money hand over fist on new pet projects."
The vote took place only three days after Democrat Governor Tim Kaine addressed state revenues and the budget, at which time he said he would reject calls to raise taxes. On Tuesday, the Governor was reported to say that his plans do not include any tax increases. Kaine said families and businesses, like state government, are struggling because of the softening national economy. At his news conference Tuesday, the Governor said "This would not be the right time to ask them to do more."
Commenting on the Governor's statement, Senator Obenshain observed "he says he is not in favor of tax increases. If that is true, he needs to immediately reject this Democratic proposal, insist that we have no new spending initiatives until our budget is balanced, and look aggressively for areas of the existing budget that can be scaled back. He should not stand idly by as his allies in the Senate demand that Virginia families cut back their already tight budgets to pay for an ever expanding state bureaucracy."
Providing an assessment on the hike's impact, Obenshain said "the average Virginia family putting 16,000 miles a year on 2 cars is already paying $3.00 a gallon for gas and about $700 a year in state and federal gas tax. The Democrats seem to think that isn't enough and that Virginians' state gas taxes should be raised by one-third. I say they are asking too much."
Obenshain said, "Virginia should be looking for ways to cut spending, not for ways to raise taxes."
The Virginia gas tax proposal also comes one month after the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission reported to Congress and proposed to triple the federal gas tax from its current 18.4 cents to nearly 60 cents per gallon (with a series of five tax increases over five years). The Commission also recommended that states follow suit and simultaneously raise their own gas taxes.
"This is a typical big government solution to real problems -- raise taxes and give failing bureaucracies more money to waste," said Obenshain. "Gas prices are already at record levels and now it looks like Richmond Democrats are getting ready to tag-team with their Washington counterparts to drive them even higher."
Obenshain continued, "With gas and other fuel prices at these record levels, and with the prospect of an economic slowdown, this is not the time to add to the tax burdens of Virginia's families while they are already struggling to make ends meet. Last week, some of the same people who are now supporting this tax increase were bemoaning the inability of many of these same families to afford health care. These arguments are simply irreconcilable."
The bill will now go to the House of Delegates for its consideration.
Senator Obenshain represents the City of Harrisonburg and the Counties of Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock, Warren and part of Rockingham.