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Dems renew gas tax push ahead of technical session

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Democratic lawmakers said new revenue figures released Friday show the state could easily forego a few months of gas tax revenue.

The statewide average for a gallon of regular gas hit $4.42 on Friday, another record. The same day, the State Budget Agency released the results of April 2022 state tax collections. The report showed total general fund revenues for April were nearly $500 million above what state budget analysts had forecasted at the end of last year. Gasoline use tax collections came in $1.2 million above estimates.

Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, said between those figures and the state’s roughly $5 billion surplus, there was no reason not to suspend the state’s gas tax. Hoosiers currently pay a use tax of 32 cents per gallon plus an excise tax that is adjusted each month. The gas excise tax for the month of May is 24 cents, so drivers currently pay a total of 56 cents per gallon in taxes.

“We proposed this back in March.” Porter said. “Things are not any better. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. Gas prices are higher. Hoosiers are hurting.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Statehouse on May 24 for a technical session and to consider whether to override a pair of vetoes. Porter and other Democrats want lawmakers to use that opportunity to suspend gas taxes through Labor Day.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, has repeatedly resisted calls to suspend the gas tax on his own. He said in a statement to News 8 high gas prices do not constitute the type of emergency for which he can suspend the gas tax.

“For an Indiana governor to suspend the gas tax through a declaration of an energy emergency, the state must have an existing or projected energy shortfall that would jeopardize life, health and property,” Porter said, adding the states that have suspended their gas taxes so far have done so through legislative action.

Porter said the governor could always call a special session on gas taxes if necessary. He said lawmakers could also consider expanding Hoosiers’ $125 tax refunds to offset the cost of gas.

“During the previous administration, there was an emergency order in regards to public health,” Porter said. “From my perspective, getting people to work that work in hospitals, long-term care, physicians, whatever, to me, that is a public health emergency.”

Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office would not directly answer News 8’s questions about whether lawmakers can enact such legislation in a technical session or what constitutes a true energy emergency. Officials there sent only a brief statement saying they are ready to assist policymakers with any legal questions concerning emergency orders. The offices of House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, and Senate President pro tem Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, did not return requests for comment.