As NC Democrats push for $200 gas tax refund for drivers, GOP lawmakers point to broader relief

2 June 2022

North Carolina Senate Democrats continued their push Thursday for a $200 gas tax rebate to help families struggling with higher gas prices, which are also contributing to higher prices for groceries and other consumer goods.

“We need targeted tax incentives that put money in people’s pockets and people who need it the most, and we need to do it now,” Sen. Dan Blue, the state Senate’s minority leader, said during a news conference Thursday. “And we need to do it in a way that does not hurt the bottom line of the state budgeting process.”

Blue, D-Wake, is a co-sponsor of the Gas Tax Rebate Act, a bill pushing for the rebates. Sens. Sydney Batch, D-Wake, and Michael Garrett, D-Guilford are also co-sponsors of the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 897, which was filed May 26.

If approved, drivers would be eligible for the $200 gas tax rebate if, as of March 31, 2022, they are a North Carolina resident over the age of 18 with a valid state driver’s license. The rebate would be issued as a check or a debit card and would be sent no later than Oct. 1, 2022. To pay for the rebates, lawmakers would transfer $1.3 billion from the state’s anticipated over-collection of $4 billion, according to the proposal.

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Some GOP members of the chamber are interested in some form of tax relief, even a possible rebate, but the party would be less inclined to support a gas tax, according to Phil Berger, the top Republican in the Senate.

“I would like to see something that’s a little more broad-based and long lasting as opposed to a temporary thing that may help with one tank of gas or two,” Berger told reporters Thursday.

He acknowledged that the state surplus is “a good bit of money,” but he cautioned handing it out freely. “We’re about to hit a real rough spot as far as the recession is concerned. So we’ve got a recent history of, when we hit the recession, having some real pressures on the promises we’ve already made to people in terms of whether it’s the future tax reductions or whether it’s some of the appropriations that are out there, so there’s at least some argument to hold on to some of that money at this time.”

As of Thursday, the American Automobile Association shows the average cost for a gallon of gas in North Carolina was $4.39, up 34% from a year ago. Prices have surged in part because of restricted global supply due to sanctions on Russia, an increase in summer travel, and a general increase in travel as COVID-19 lockdowns have been lifted globally.

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Meanwhile, rising inflation has added to personal finance woes across the country.

In May, the Federal Reserve approved its biggest interest rate increase since 2000. The Fed raised interest rates by half a percentage point.

“The Gas Tax Rebate Act isn’t going to fix all of the challenges facing our economy, but it will provide much-needed relief right now,” Garrett said.

He added: “North Carolina families are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of everyday goods. They feel it when they fill up their vehicles, they feel it when they go to the grocery store and they feel it at the pharmacy.”

WRAL Senior Multiplatform Producer Mark Bergin contributed to this article.

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