Maryland drivers say gas tax suspension not providing enough relief

Darrell Lee, after filling his tank in west Baltimore in preparation for a DoorDash delivery, said the economy needs long-term solutions and not a temporary stop gap. (Photo: Joe Ryan) Darrell Lee, after filling his tank in west Baltimore in preparation for a DoorDash delivery, said the economy needs long-term solutions and not a temporary stop gap. (Photo: Joe Ryan)

ANNAPOLIS (April 5, 2022)—At a Royal Farms gas station Thursday in Hyattsville, a gallon of regular gas went for $3.75, a lot lower than the national average that day of $4.22.

That discounted price, however, is temporary, the result of the 37-cent-a-gallon gas tax holiday enacted by the Maryland General Assembly on March 18. The reduction ends April 17, and prices are expected to rise again.

For Dana Horne, 45, of Upper Marlboro, that means buying less gas and using alternate forms of transportation.

"I have a scooter and a bike, so I'll be on both until the prices become affordable," said Horne as she filled the tank of her Ford Explorer at the Royal Farms gas station. "I can't afford it."

Before Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the General Assembly suspended the state's tax on fuel, Horne said she rode her scooter and motorcycle to get places, because they used less gas than her SUV. When prices rise again, Horne said, she will return to doing the same thing until prices become more affordable.

For Bowie resident Joy Brown, 70, the reduced gas price has been nice, but it hasn't been enough.

"[It is] better but still not great," said Brown, a retiree who now works part-time as a legal assistant for a real estate agency. "When it was over $4, it was a problem for me, but I mean, it is what it is. You've got to get gas."

The temporary suspension of the gas tax meant a nearly 10% reduction in gas prices within the first four days to $3.78 per gallon for regular gas, according to GasBuddy, a website that monitors gas prices nationally and locally. Since then though, the Maryland gas price has remained virtually the same even as national prices have declined by 1.8%, according to GasBuddy.

At the Royal Farms gas station on East Fayette Street in east Baltimore, Darrell Lee, 50, filled up his car so he could deliver DoorDash orders before going to his other job.

To Lee, the temporary lower prices are not significant, because they don't provide a much-needed long-term solution.

"Gas can hurt the economy, because if you don't have a way to get to work, how can you put food on the table?" Lee said.

Questions about the effectiveness of the tax holiday were echoed by others, including Susan Lavus, 34, who will be paying more for gas when she transitions back to working in an office over the next few weeks.

"I don't think 30 days is really going to make that much of a difference to say, the average person," Lavus said.

And the math appears to support Lavus's sentiment. For a commuting worker driving a standard sedan and filling up their tank twice a week with 12 gallons, the savings are about $35 for the 30 days.

Hogan and some legislators had mentioned a possible extension of the holiday when it was first initiated, but currently there is no talk in the General Assembly about adding more time to the suspension of the tax.

Maryland was one of three states, the others being Georgia and Connecticut, that passed gas tax holidays to lower prices.

Maryland's was the shortest suspension of the three. Georgia's moratorium lasts from March 18 to May 31, and Connecticut's runs from April 1 to June 30.

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