Local News

Myrick Fires Back At Black, Basnight Over N.C. Gas Tax

Posted January 9, 2006 5:25 a.m. EST

— Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., has ramped up the fight over North Carolina's gas tax, criticizing the General Assembly's top two Democrats for seeking federal assistance to combat rising prices at the pump.

Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, and House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, wrote to all 14 members of North Carolina's congressional delegation late last week about rising fuel prices.

Myrick shot back with her own letter the next day, saying no higher tax would have been needed had they prevented more than $500 million from being transferred from the Highway Trust Fund to the general operating fund since 2001.

"The first step in recovery is to acknowledge you have a problem," Myrick wrote Friday. "Your actions are the problem. I reject your effort to deflect this problem to the federal government."

Black and Basnight wrote their letter on the same day a special legislative committee in Raleigh took testimony on the rising fuel costs. North Carolina's gas tax rose automatically by 2.8 cents per gallon on Jan. 1 to 29.9 cents. Some lawmakers want the tax to be rolled back to pre-New Year's levels, but Gov. Mike Easley and others argue the money is needed to keep pace with rising highway construction costs.

"We are hopeful that when Congress returns to session at the end of this month, you will push your colleagues to bring some relief to the North Carolinians we all are so privileged to represent," Black and Basnight wrote.

Basnight and Black criticized the tact taken by Myrick, a six-term House member who has been urged by some Republicans to run for governor in 2008.

"It is unfortunate that Congresswoman Myrick is unwilling to help provide meaningful fuel cost relief for consumers of North Carolina at this time," Basnight's office said in a statement.

Black said: "Apparently she was having a bad day when she wrote this letter."

Gasoline tax revenues comprise one portion of the Highway Trust Fund, which is used primarily to build urban loops, and widen and repair roads. A 3 percent use tax on vehicle sales and title fees also go into the fund.

The Highway Trust Fund was created in 1989 at the urging of Republican Gov. Jim Martin.

The Legislature for years completed an annual $170 million transfer to hold the state's operating fund harmless for revenues now forwarded to the trust fund.

Budget-writers have increased that amount in recent years to help narrow budget shortfalls and to adjust the transfer for inflation.