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Idaho Democrats call for gas tax 'holiday'

A gas pump is seen at a Shell gas station in Houston on April 1.
Brandon Bell
/
Getty Images
A gas pump is seen at a Shell gas station in Houston on April 1.

Idaho Democrats sent a letter to Governor Brad Little Wednesday, asking him to call a special legislative session to consider a six-month break from the state's gas tax.

Average fuel prices in Idaho eclipsed the $5 per gallon mark for the first time Wednesday, and .32 cents of the cost of each gallon is state tax.

Sen. David Nelson (D-Moscow) and Rep. James Ruchti (D-Pocatello) wrote the Governor, "When Idahoans are struggling and the state sits on a significant budget surplus of $1.3 billion, this type of tax relief is helpful, timely and affordable."

Democrats suggest a holiday or rebate to provide the tax break, which would cost the state around $180 million.

Governor Little is reviewing the request, according to a statement provided by his office. He blamed democrats and the Biden Administration for mishandling the economy and driving current inflation and high gas prices.

The administration has taken steps to try and curtail rising prices, but higher prices are primarily caused by supply and demand, and international pressures like Russia's invasion of Ukraine; factors beyond the reach of any president.

Little also referenced tax cuts passed by state lawmakers this session, mostly along party lines.

"Every single Idaho Democrat legislator voted against the ongoing tax cuts and immediate tax rebates just a few months ago," read the Governor's statement.

Democrats called House Bill 436, the $600 million package of cuts and rebates to personal and corporate income tax rates, misguided.

"Democrats’ vote reflected our concern that most of the tax cuts went to the wealthy and well-connected," Nelson wrote in response to the Governor's statement Wednesday. "The governor is suggesting the previous tax cut gave the relief Idahoans needed. We disagree. We also recognize the governor has not said this is a bad idea."

Nelson said the proposal is specifically targeted to help Idaho families, small businesses and farmers.

“The state has the money to provide gas tax relief and the need is clear,” he wrote in a news release. “The only thing that remains is the will to do it.”

Tax revenue has stayed well above forecasts. The state brought in an extra $574 million in April alone, further boosting an already record surplus. Governor Little announced this spring that additional tax cuts would be coming - but he has not specified what those cuts might be.

Idaho's constitution permits only the governor to call a special session and requires a narrow, well-defined agenda of work during a special session.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News. He's also heard Saturday nights on Boise State Public Radio Music's Jazz Conversations.