Candidates, Congress split on ‘gas tax holiday’
The “gas tax holiday” has officially emerged as the latest bickerfest big issue in the presidential race. Hillary Clinton and John McCain say drivers need a break this summer, while Obama is aggressively pushing back against the idea.
In a new ad, Obama emphasizes that cutting the tax this summer would save most consumers a mere $30 — about half the cost of a tank of gas these days. It’s a short-term fix, he says in the ad, and “that’s typical of how Washington works.” (Even McCain has acknowledged that the holiday would amount to only a “psychological boost” and not sound policy.) Instead of gimmicks, Obama notes in the ad that we need to raise fuel efficiency and develop alternative fuels as a solution to gas woes. He’s been pushing alternative transportation systems like rail transit, as David noted.
Obama’s stance is backed by economic experts, virtually none of whom think a gas-tax holiday is a good idea. Most environmentalists are also opposed, and in recent days some leading Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), have also come out against the proposal.
But Obama’s going to have trouble defending his position. His opponents are painting him as unwilling to help out cash-strapped average Americans. And some fellow Dems are joining calls to repeal the tax, among them Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) — generally among the more environmentally concerned senators — who voiced support for axing the tax today. He suggests doing it in conjunction with an excise tax on oil companies:
The $35 billion in new revenue would fund a six-month federal and state “gas tax holiday.” This approach would lower the price of gas by up to 36 cents a gallon without reducing the Highway Trust Fund at a time when repairs to our decaying roads and bridges are desperately needed.
Of course, Congress could just instate that excise tax on oil companies without the gas-tax holiday and put that $35 billion toward long-term solutions.
As Memorial Day draws nigh and congressional representatives start taking sides on this issue, you can be sure the “gas tax holiday” will be a hot one in weeks to come.