INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana’s elected officials are in a heated political debate over soaring gas prices and what to do about them.
Gov. Eric Holcomb says he will not suspend the state’s taxes on gasoline but may offer other types of relief.
Hoosiers are increasingly calling for help. Indiana’s gas price average on Thursday hit a record high, $4.93 a gallon, for the second consecutive day. The rising gas prices are contributing to inflated prices in almost every area of live.
Tony Lassere, the owner of a cleaning company, told I-Team 8 that he is spending $60 or more a day on gas.
“Well the point is already here” for state officials to help, Lessere said. “I’m driving a pickup truck and should I be driving a pickup truck or should I go to a sedan?”
The cleaning company owner already has cut back on expenses and increasingly shops around for the best gas prices. Plus, his employees now ride with him from job to job.
The suspension of Indiana’s gas tax could save him from $60-$75 a week. “That would help. That would help. I mean minimal, but it will help.”
Indiana has one of the costliest gasoline taxes in the country, and that is money Holcomb believes is needed in the state’s bank accounts.
“I have no plans to suspend the gas tax,” Holcomb has said.
Indiana Republicans in the majority in the Legislature have shown no appetite to come back to the Statehouse to suspend the gasoline tax.
State Rep. Greg Porter says the state has more than $6 billion in the bank, money that belongs to Indiana taxpayers. The suspension of the gas tax, the Democrat lawmaker from Indianapolis believes, is a good first step to providing Indiana drivers some relief.
“Well, we have asked our governor to suspend the gas tax here in the state of Indiana; however, there is a lot of consternation in regards to doing that, so he doesn’t want to do that. We do have some alternatives that we have come up with,” Porter said.
Porter says if the governor refuses to suspend the gas tax, House Democrats are asking for an automatic tax refund from $100-$125 for every taxpayer. Their plan, he says, would transfer around $500 million to $550 million back to taxpayers.
“We need to give some of that money back to the people,” Porter said.
Holcomb has hinted he might have a relief package in the works. “I have reached out to the speaker (of the Indiana House) and the Senate pro tem to float an idea that I have that will be very helpful to Hoosiers.”
The governor didn’t go into details.
The last time the gas tax was suspended in Indiana was in summer 2000 by Gov. Frank O’Bannon. The average price of regular gas had jumped 55 cents to $2.13 a gallon, and the tax relief was viewed as a political move in the middle of the governor’s 2000 reelection campaign.
Indiana lawmakers in February approved expanding the number of people eligible for $125 payments under the state’s automatic taxpayer refund law. People who are married and filed jointly could expect $250. Direct deposit payments were to be made before May 1. Paper checks were to be issued beginning in late July and continue through August. People who didn’t provide direct deposit information or asked for an extension on this year’s tax return were expected to wait longer.