Local News

Political Parties Divided On Gas Price Solution

Posted February 1, 2006

— Is the real problem a few pennies extra at the gas pump or a record $36 billion in profits made by a petroleum giant? State Republicans believe it's the recent gas tax increase.

"That's because Democrats control the legislative process, Democrats control the Governor's Mansion, and they refuse to act on this issue," said Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger (R) of Rockingham County.

Democrats say that the blame should go to Washington.

"What we are talking about are a couple of pennies on the gallon," said N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek. "That's not going to make a real impact for most people in North Carolina. What we've got to have is Congress willing to step in and say to these oil companies, 'Look, cut it out, stop gouging consumers.'"

Democrats applaud Gov. Mike Easley's letter to President George W. Bush calling for an investigation of gas company profits. Republicans say Easley is shifting the blame from Democratic state lawmakers.

"What you are seeing is a guy that doesn't want to deal with this issue we have, which is taxes, trying to deflect and blame," said national Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman.

Republicans want a special legislative session to roll back the 3-cent tax, which would save consumers about $15 annually. State Rep. Jim Crawford of Oxford, a Democrat and budget co-chair, already knows the answer.

"I don't think so," said Rep. Crawford. "Our highway department, the (Department of Transportation), is in real trouble with their own cash flow."

All Republicans in the House and Senate have signed a letter asking Gov. Easley to call a special legislative session on the gas tax. None of the Democrats have added their names.

Gov. Easley's office states that a repeal of the tax would amount to little savings for consumers, and doubts the gas companies would pass the savings on to consumers.

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