"The gas tax is a central issue, and (is) symbolic of a lot of things wrong in this state," said Bill Graham, of North Carolina Conservatives United, and the man behind Tuesday's rally.
Graham, a Salisbury attorney, is also the organizer of the
Stop the Gas Tax Hike
advertising campaign currently running on television and the radio.
"We're not asking simply for a freeze, and we're not going to settle for just a freeze," said Graham, who some have said is ramping up a run for governor. "What we want them to do is roll the tax back. "
Through the campaign, about 70,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Legislature to cap and roll back the gasoline tax, one of the highest in the United States at a rate of 29.9 cents a gallon.
After shunning calls to cap the tax rate last year, Gov. Mike Easley last week announced that he will call on the General Assembly to freeze the state gasoline tax so that the rate will not increase from the current level.
Still, he said he opposes rolling back the gas tax, having said that those who do support doing so are not listening to petroleum analysts who doubt the savings would be passed on to consumers.
"I'm leery of those who are so adamant about that and sometimes wonder who they're working for," Easley said.
Some Democratic lawmakers are also supporting the gas cap, which is expected to be a major issue in the General Assembly's 2006-2007 short session.
"Gas prices are largely out of our control, and we just want to send a message: we're not adding to your burden," said House Majority Leader Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Moore.
Industry experts have recently said that gas prices may have peaked. One expert has also predicted that prices could drop as much as 75 cents a gallon by Labor Day. Hurricane season and tensions with Iran, however, could affect that.
Locally, the average cost of gas is down to about $2.85 a gallon.
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