Dip in Prices Shouldn't Deter Minner from Suspending State's Gas Tax, Citizen Group Says

(Alexandria, VA) -- Despite a downtick this weekend in Delaware's alarming fuel prices, Governor Ruth Ann Minner should heed fellow Democrat (and State Representative) Dennis Williams' call to suspend the state's burdensome gas tax: that's the advice the 400,000-member National Taxpayers Union offered today on behalf of motorists. The non-partisan citizen group, which has over 1,200 members in Delaware, has sent Minner an open letter urging her to "cushion the blow" of high fuel prices by providing tax relief through executive action.

"NTU encourages you to permanently lower state gas tax rates or provide temporary relief through a 'gas tax holiday,'" NTU Government Affairs Manager Kristina Rasmussen wrote to Minner. "It is our belief that such a move would be the best solution available for assisting consumers in your state in this time of crisis."

Rasmussen noted that Delaware drivers pay in excess of $6 in taxes on a typical fill-up at the pump, which would make a reduction in the state's portion of this total a welcome and noticeable change for most consumers. She also contended that fuel tax relief would be a sound policy "even in the absence of supply disruptions caused by Katrina and ongoing price spikes that have plagued motorists for much of 2005." According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, Delaware's state gasoline excise tax of 23 cents per gallon ranks 18th-highest in the nation, a considerable rate even in the higher-taxed Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

Just over a week ago, Georgia's Sonny Perdue became the latest Governor to temporarily suspend by Executive Order the state's taxes on gasoline. On Thursday West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin announced he would soon order a one-year moratorium on a gas tax increase slated to take effect January 1, 2006. Media reports over the weekend indicated that Governor Minner was not considering a suspension "at this time," but Rasmussen indicated that NTU would mobilize taxpayers through talk radio, e-mail alerts, and other methods to "put fuel tax relief at the top of the agenda."

Furthermore, although Minner has expressed a desire for additional transportation revenues, Rasmussen pointed out that Delaware is "sitting on a steadily-fattening budget reserve of $366 million. Surely the state can afford to give back to overburdened motorists" in such a climate, without endangering any true transportation priorities or pushing the budget into imbalance.

"Although using budget reserves to fund new spending programs may be tempting, lowering state gas taxes immediately is a better way to assist Delawareans as all taxpayers and aspects of your state's economy are affected by rising gas prices," Rasmussen's letter concluded. "Your active leadership would ensure that beleaguered Delaware motorists can better cope with this trying time."

NTU is a non-profit organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and greater economic freedom at all levels. Note: Rasmussen's letter to Minner, along with numerous studies and commentaries on transportation policy, may be accessed online at www.ntu.org.