An update on the gas tax bill from the Winston-Salem Journal:
The state Senate, as expected, has rejected the House’s changes to Senate Bill 20, which focuses foremost on the state’s motor fuels tax.
The 39-4 vote Monday night against – with no Republicans in favor of accepting changes – sets the stage for a conference committee to come up with a new version of the bill.
You may recall that the Senate’s original version of this bill would have set the state gas tax at 35 cents per gallon immediately, which is down from the current 37 cents. But because the tax adjusts according to the price of gas, the tax is expected to drop to about 29 cents per gallon on July 1 due to low gas prices. The Senate bill would have ensured that the gas tax doesn’t drop below 35 cents – the end result would be a new tax hike of about $1.2 billion over the next four years compared to if the gas tax formula stayed the same.
The House altered the bill and approved a different version, which would have set the tax at 36 cents per gallon for the rest of this year; with plans on adjusting the tax formula later this session.
What will be the fate of NC’s gas tax? A conference committee will work to hash out differences between the chambers on SB 20. Throwing a curve ball into the story, however, comes HB 203. This bill would phase out the gas tax by July 2016 and replace that revenue with a new “transportation usage fee;” essentially another vehicle registration fee that would total $201 per year and be assessed in addition to the current registration fee. For sake of comparison, if the gas tax were set at 35 cents per gallon, one would need to buy 574 gallons of gas throughout the year to pay $201 worth of gas tax – matching the amount of the proposed new usage fee.
HB 203 was introduced yesterday, so time will tell if it gets any traction in the General Assembly.