backtracks on pitch to raise federal gas tax
By R. A. Dillon
Published Friday, May 9, 2008
Fairbanks Daily News Miner
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Don Young says he has no
intention of introducing legislation that would increase the amount of
federal tax drivers pay at the pump, despite his comments earlier in the
week that raising the gasoline tax would curb demand.
"I want to make perfectly clear. I have not and have no intention
of introducing a bill to increase the gas tax," Young said in a prepared
statement released Thursday.
On Tuesday, Young told members of a House transportation subcommittee
they should consider adding 72 cents to the federal gasoline tax to alter
Americans' driving habits and reduce the nation's reliance on foreign
"If we want to solve the problem and quit pandering to the general
public ... I suggest we raise the taxes to $1 a gallon," Young told
colleagues. "That makes you put your money where your mouth is."
Young, who made his comments during a hearing on the record-high cost
of diesel fuel, said hiking the 18-cent federal gasoline tax would encourage
"people to stop driving like idiots."
"I will promote a tax so that the general public will slow down,
will change their driving habits, will drive a different vehicle and we
will save fuel," he said.
Young said he would exempt diesel fuel from the tax hike to protect commercial
"I worry about the truckers," he said, "but I am not worried
about the general public when it comes down to how they misuse the fossil
fuels that are left."
The proposal drew criticism from Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who said Young
was "out of touch" with Alaskans and with the state of the economy
"People are already on edge right now," Parnell said in a prepared
statement. "Voters are taxed enough already and his proposal just
leaves you shaking your head."
Parnell, who is challenging Young in the Republican primary for the state's
lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he was surprised
to hear the incumbent call for a tax increase when gas prices were already
at record highs across Alaska.
The other GOP candidate in the House race, state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux,
also blasted Young over his comments.
"I think the idea of raising gasoline taxes right now when we're
over $6 a gallon in some of the villages just shows a total disconnect
over what ordinary people are going through," she said.
Young said the comments were taken out of context and that he brought
it up simply to engage his fellow committee members in a debate on the
need to boost domestic energy supplies to deal with soaring prices.
"My point about raising the gas tax was to draw attention to the
fact that if we do nothing to create new supplies of energy, then all
that is left is to address the demand side of the equation," he said.
"My comments were intended to wake up the hearing and wake up Congress."
Congress is grappling with how give voters reeling from surging gas prices
some relief at the pump. Republicans and Democrats have released competing
energy plans, but analysts have panned both packages as political pandering
that is unlikely to become law anytime soon.
Most analysts blame rising pump prices on the cost of crude oil, which
climbed above $120 a barrel this week.
Young and other Republicans have called for expanding domestic drilling
of oil and gas offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to
deal with tight supply.
"We don't have a reserve, refinery capacity and we have no ability
to increase supply," Young said. "We have a lot of oil in this
nation, but we have not developed it."
Democrats, who hold a majority in the House, oppose opening ANWR and new
offshore areas to oil and gas drilling.
Democrats blocked an attempt by Young on Wednesday to offer an amendment
in the House Natural Resources Committee that would have allowed drilling
in the coastal plain of ANWR. The proposal failed 12-18 mostly along party
The concern over the impact of record pump prices on voters has become
a central theme of the presidential campaigns.
Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Arizona, are both advocating
for a summer holiday from the federal gas tax.
Economists and energy policy experts have dismissed the idea of a 180-day
break from the gas tax as unsound fiscal policy that's unlikely to lower
prices at the pump even in the short-term.
An aide to Young said the congressman considers the proposal nothing more
than "populist political posturing" that won't provide relief
However, Parnell and LeDoux both said they favored giving voters a summer
holiday from the motor fuel tax.
"I think any relief we can give Alaskans is welcome in these times
of high fuel costs," Parnell said.
Parnell said he disagrees with economists who claim temporary respite
from the gas-tax, which provides revenue for the national highway fund,
won't help consumers.
"Taxpayers know better how to spend their money," he said. "Putting
a little more in Alaskans' pockets is a good thing."
"With the price of gas the way it is, every single cent helps,"
The price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Fairbanks on Thursday
was between $3.79 and $3.92. Diesel was selling for about $4.40 a gallon.
Nationally, the average price for regular unleaded hit $3.65 a gallon,
while diesel was $4.25 a gallon.
The state levies an 8-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline, the lowest in the
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