Less Taxes in Mo.

State Democrats offer fuel tax holiday plan; Blunt not expected to be on board

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri House Democrats late last week proposed a two-week reduction of state fuel taxes to give motorists relief from high gasoline prices, the Associated Press said. The proposed fuel tax holiday would suspend 10 cents of the state's 17-cents-a-gallon motor fuel tax for two weeks.

Democrats called upon Governor Matt Blunt (R) to add their proposal to his call for a September 6 special legislative session. But a spokesperson for the governor said he would not do so. Jessica Robinson told the newspaper that the proposal is a risky [image-nocss] scheme that could jeopardize vital, ongoing transportation projects in our state. She said that if Democrats were truly concerned about gasoline prices, they would support Blunt's proposal that all gasoline sold in Missouri be a 10% ethanol blend.

When I talk to folks on the street, the No. 1 thing that they're talking about is the cost of gas, said House Minority Leader Jeff Harris (D). I'm just like everybody else, Harris said, according to a separate report in the Columbia Daily Tribune. I'm tired of paying high gas prices at the pump. This is a way to give consumers and businesses and school districts immediate relief from high gas prices.

Such a holiday would mean the state would collect less money from the fuel tax, which is used to build and repair state roads, said the report. Harris said the direct revenue loss would be about $18 million, but he said the loss would be offset by out-of-state motoristsparticularly in border areaswho would come to Missouri to fill up. He said that when those motorists are included, he assumes the plan will not reduce revenue at all, although he did not offer data to support that estimate. He also said the economy might be picking up steam anyway. So you look at those factors, and this will not be a proposal that will hurt our roads, he said.

Asked whether gas station owners could simply raise the price of gasoline to offset the tax cut, Harris said those owners could be prosecuted for predatory pricing or anti-competitive conduct. The legislator said he does not think station owners would take such a step.

The Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association has not taken a position on the idea, the report said. I think the politics and the public policy of this issue are best left to the wisdom of the legislature, said Ronald Leone, the organization's executive director.

State Representative Steve Hobbs (R) said he would want to know the cost.

I'm sure the folks would love it, he told the paper. It's an intriguing idea. I'd be willing to look at it.