Maryland drivers criticize upcoming end to gas tax holiday

The price of regular gas in Cecilton Friday was about 30 cents per gallon cheaper than it was about 10 miles away in Middletown, Delaware, (Photo: E.A. Breeden) The price of regular gas in Cecilton Friday was about 30 cents per gallon cheaper than it was about 10 miles away in Middletown, Delaware, (Photo: E.A. Breeden)

ANNAPOLIS (April 8, 2022)—Maryland drivers will not get extended relief at the gas pump after Republican attempts to extend the state's one month gas tax holiday through Memorial Day failed Thursday after House Democrats rejected the move.

The average price of gas in Maryland has fallen well below the national average with the 37-cent tax suspension in place, and GOP lawmakers tried to extend the tax break beyond the April 16 deadline with an amendment to a bill that would extend the state's energy storage tax credit.

According to AAA, the average price of regular gas Friday in Maryland was $3.75 per gallon and the national average was $4.14.

"This expires next week," House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel, R-Allegany, said on the floor before the vote Thursday. "Does anyone in this room think that the economic conditions that existed 30 days ago are not the same as what they are today?

"Do we think they are going to dramatically change—gas prices, inflation, fuel costs—in the next 45 days?"

The amendment to extend the suspension for another 45 days was defeated 47 to 82.

There is no plan for an extension to be considered in the Senate, according to the Senate president's Director of Communications David Schulein.

Drivers at a Royal Farms in Cecilton said Thursday they believe the gas tax cut should be extended in the state because they saw savings at the pump that helped them at a time when prices are soaring.

Kimberly Jamar, 32, a homemaker from Chestertown, said she drives an hour and a half regularly to Baltimore for medical treatment for two of her three children. She said she saved between $200 and $300 over the last month with the tax suspension and would support it being extended.

"I don't think it's right," Jamar said. "I think they ought to renew it, or I'm not going to be able to afford getting my children the medical care they need."

Sue Bertino, 64, from Earlville, said she has family in New Jersey that she has to take care of, and she makes the trip from her home to theirs about once a week.

"It's fantastic, because you can't afford it (the gas)," Bertino said. "I gotta watch every dime I spend."

Linda Dyekman, 73, from Chesapeake City, said because of the low prices, she knows people who come from Delaware to get gas in Maryland, if they live close enough. Gas in Middletown, Delaware, just over 10 miles away from Cecilton, was around $4, as opposed to $3.70 at the Royal Farms where Dyekman had stopped.

"I'm very grateful for Gov. (Larry) Hogan, the good Republican that he is," said Dyekman, a major gift officer for the Franciscan Friars of Atonement in Garrison, N.Y. "I wish they could (extend the tax break), but I understand it was a gift at a time when they could do it."

Maryland gubernatorial hopefuls held different viewpoints of the decision not to extend the moratorium.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, the first to call for the move, has repeatedly angled for a 90-day moratorium.

"The gas tax holiday provided immediate relief to many hard-working families across the state," the Franchot campaign said in a statement. "As people are still recovering from the financial stress of the pandemic, this is an easy way for legislators to put money back into people's pockets and tangibly improve their quality of life."

Franchot sent a letter to the legislature Friday urging lawmakers to vote on an extension before the legislative session ends Monday.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King said he did not support an extension, arguing it is not a long-term solution, though he acknowledged it helped combat price increases temporarily.

"Unfortunately, leaders of the past like Comptroller Peter Franchot, who are supposed to work to protect Marylanders' best interests, have instead worked to keep us addicted to fossil fuels, making steps like a gas tax moratorium necessary, when situations outside of our control like the war in Ukraine arise," King said in a statement.

The campaign of Republican governor hopeful Kelly Schulz, Maryland's former secretary of Commerce, said legislators should have voted to extend the tax break and said she would work to repeal the state's automatic gas tax increase, if elected.

"With inflation at a record high, Marylanders will pay more at the pump due to this hidden tax," Schulz Communications Director Mike Demkiwe said in a statement. "As governor, Kelly Schulz will work to repeal this Inflation Tax to make our state more affordable."

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. Georgia's moratorium lasts from March 18 to May 31, and Connecticut's runs from April 1 to June 30.

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