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Maryland, Georgia announce gas tax holidays as federal efforts stall in Congress

Other states are pressing ahead with a pause in gas taxes to help ease pain at the pump for drivers.
Image: A car passes a gas station sign in Annapolis, Md., on March 14, 2022.
A car passes a gas station sign in Annapolis, Md., on March 14, 2022.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

States are taking the lead on suspending gas taxes to help lower prices at the pump as legislation for a federal fuel tax holiday hits roadblocks on Capitol Hill.

Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bipartisan bill Friday making Maryland the first state in the nation to pause its gas tax amid the recent price surge. The monthlong law takes effect immediately and temporarily does away with Maryland's 36.1 cents per gallon tax on gasoline and its 36.85 cents per gallon tax on diesel.

“As we continue to stand in solidarity against Russian aggression in Ukraine and as Marylanders face the impact of surging inflation with the average price of gas rapidly rising, this bipartisan action will provide some relief from the pain at the pump,” the Republican governor said at a bill signing ceremony. “This of course, is not going to be a cure-all,” he added, cautioning that market forces would likely cause prices to fluctuate.

Later on Friday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who is seeking re-election this year, signed legislation that would eliminate the state’s roughly 29 cent tax on motor fuel and 32.6 cent tax on diesel through May 31.

“Though we can’t fix everything Washington has broken, we’re doing our part to lessen the impact on Georgians’ wallets,” Kemp said in a statement.

More than a dozen states are looking to follow in Maryland and Georgia's footsteps.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, an organization that tracks public policy issues, said at least 17 state Legislatures are looking at reducing or freezing gas taxes, from California and New York to Idaho and Missouri.

The tax holidays would free up distributors, who set the prices at the pump, from paying the tax and allow more wiggle room to reduce prices for consumers.

The state-level proposals come as Congress struggles to advance legislation that would suspend the federal fuel tax. A group of six Democratic governors last week sent a letter to congressional leaders calling on them to suspend the federal fuel tax as a way to bring down gas prices.

“At a time when people are directly impacted by rising prices on everyday goods, a federal gas tax holiday is a tool in the toolbox to reduce costs for Americans, and we urge you to give every consideration to this proposed legislation,” they wrote.

The Democratic bill would suspend the federal fuel tax of 18.3 cents a gallon on unleaded gasoline through 2022. The measure is sponsored by Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who are both up for re-election this year.

In a floor speech last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of trying to “blow a $20 billion hole in highway funding” with their gas tax proposal.

In addition to concerns over its impact on the Highway Trust Fund, the bill hasn’t won over Senate Democrats who aren’t convinced major oil companies will lower prices for consumers if there's a pause in the federal gas tax.

With no guaranteed relief in sight from Washington, states like Idaho, Illinois and Indiana are looking at suspending their gas taxes for up to two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Others, though, are looking at periods closer to what Georgia and Maryland enacted.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin said this week that he would be sending a bill to the Virginia’s General Assembly to suspend the state’s gas tax for three months after the Legislature blocked his earlier effort to suspend a recent gas tax increase of 5 cents per gallon for 12 months.

Based on Youngkin’s scaled-back proposal, Virginia would suspend the Motor Vehicle Fuels tax — 26.2 cents per gallon for gasoline and 27 cents for diesel — for three months beginning in May, and would gradually reintroduce the tax in August and September.