ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) – After passing the budget Friday, Virginia lawmakers are back in their districts. But one Southwest Virginia lawmaker said he was disappointed to leave Richmond without a gas tax holiday.
Delegate Israel O’Quinn (R-Bristol) joined fellow Republicans in calling for a three-month repeal to the state’s gas tax from July 1-September 30.
In Virginia, gas is taxed at 26.2 cents/gallon. Diesel is taxed at 27 cents/gallon.
On Friday, Republicans tried to pass a budget amendment for the tax holiday, but it ultimately failed in the Senate.
O’Quinn said the House had previously passed legislation approving the gas tax holiday, but that failed in the Senate as well.
“It’s something that we were committed to and felt like it was the right thing to do,” O’Quinn said. “It would’ve been a huge help especially as we’re going into Summer and travel season for Virginians.”
O’Quinn said a tax holiday was one of just a few options state lawmakers had to ease the burden at the pump.
On Monday, Virginia drivers paid $4.82 on average statewide for unleaded, 23 cents more than Tennessee’s average at $4.59.
Drivers paying over $4.60 in Abingdon were disappointed state government couldn’t provide any relief at the pump.
“I’m sure a lot of people are struggling. Any increase in the amount of money that people have to come up with to survive is not a good thing,” said Mike Duffy at a Shell station off I-81.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin had pushed for the holiday throughout the rise in gas prices. O’Quinn believed that to be a large reason behind the failure to get it passed.
“It seemed to boil down more simply to the fact that there were some people in the Senate that just didn’t want the governor to have what they would classify as a win,” O’Quinn said.
Youngkin put the blame on Senate Democrats in a tweet last Friday.
Democrats argued the tax holiday would not guarantee lower prices at the pump, and could impact transportation improvements paid for by the tax across the Commonwealth.
“We are wildly underfunding transportation by billions with a b dollars per year, every year and our constituents are getting killed because of it,” said Delegate Danica Roem (D-Manassas) during budget talks Friday.
But O’Quinn said the state had the money to handle a tax holiday without slowing those road improvements.
“It was not actually going to affect the highway maintenance fund. They were going to make a deposit into that that would have offset this,” O’Quinn said.
O’Quinn said the tax holiday would have saved each driver about $200 on average.
The governor or speaker of the house could call lawmakers back into session over the gas tax, but O’Quinn said it would likely suffer the same fate.