(Alexandria, VA) -- In response to Katrina-related gas price spikes that have hit consumers hard at the pump, Governor Schweitzer should lower fuel taxes on motorists, according to an open letter to Schweitzer today from the 400,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The non-partisan citizen group has nearly 2,400 members in Montana.
"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 Schweitzer. "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 cited the state's $300 million budget reserve and the $1.4 billion Montana expects to collect from taxpayers, as two reasons why Schweitzer should act decisively on behalf of beleaguered motorists. "In light of a projected state budget surplus for fiscal year 2006, revenues 'lost' due to gas tax relief could be absorbed without fear of creating fiscal imbalance," Rasmussen wrote.
Additionally, Rasmussen noted that Montana holds the dubious honor of having the 5th-highest state gas tax in the nation, at 27 cents per gallon. When combined with the federal tax, Montana motorists face a 45 cent-per-gallon rate, or the equivalent of $6.81 on a typical 15-gallon fill-up.
Last week, Georgia's Sonny Perdue became the latest Governor to temporarily suspend by Executive Order the state's per-gallon and sales taxes on gasoline (following those in Illinois and Indiana who did so in 2000). Although laws in some states can limit the authority of chief executives over tax policies, all Governors can at least call special sessions of their State Legislatures to enact fuel tax relief.
"Surely the state can afford to give back to overburdened motorists by suspending the gas tax until the end of the year," Rasmussen concluded. "Although using budget reserves to fund new spending programs may be tempting, lowering state gas taxes immediately is the better way to assist Montanans as all taxpayers and aspects of your state's economy are affected by rising gas prices."
NTU is a non-profit organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: Rasmussen's letter to Schweitzer, along with numerous studies and commentaries on government transportation policy, may be accessed online at www.ntu.org.