Local Republicans Push for Fed Gas Tax Relief


Above, Olympia Caswell, a Franklin Republican, puts a batch of petitions in the mail for Congressman Jake Auchincloss Tuesday.

Whether it was prescience or just luck, a local petition drive by Republicans in Franklin may provide an extra push to get a federal gas tax voted into law. The petition grew out of frustration with Beacon Hill legislators that have firmly refused to consider a temporary suspension of the 24-cent-per-gallon gas tax, even as fuel prices have risen at an unprecedented pace.

So, they decided to target Congress, which could take steps to suspend the federal gas tax of about 18 cents per gallon, and began collecting signatures on June 10 to request Franklin’s representative in Washington, Cong. Jake Auchincloss do just that.

But in recent days, what seemed a long shot now seem to be a real possibility. Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (who served at the Boston Fed earlier in her career), stated that she was warming to the idea of a federal gas tax suspension.

Then, news reports started to emerge the President Biden feels the same way. Can the Democrat Congress be far behind?

And even in Massachusetts, the worm turns. On Beacon Hill Tuesday, a Senate Republican drew attention to what he sees as growing bipartisan "momentum" for an effort to suspend the state gas tax.

Amid the start-of-week of routine business-like local bills and sick leave banks, Sen. Ryan Fattman sought recognition and noted he drove past $5.37-per-gallon gas on his Massachusetts Turnpike commute from his home, which is nearly 50 miles away in Sutton.

"And I'd be remiss if I did not mention, I have tried twice to reduce the gas tax -- suspending it until Labor Day, until December. And we have momentum," Fattman said.

The Sutton Republican pointed to President Joe Biden's comments Monday that he is open to temporary suspension of the federal gas tax, and to Democrat Sen. Eric Lesser's conditional support on Sunday for a state gas tax holiday.

"So we have momentum. I hope that it continues," Fattman said.

In a press gaggle Monday at Rehoboth Beach, Del., Biden confirmed he is "considering" a federal gas tax pause and hopes to make a decision by the end of this week, according to a White House transcript.

Lesser, one of three Democrats running for lieutenant governor, said Sunday on WCVB-TV's "On The Record" that he would "enthusiastically" vote for a gas tax suspension, provided the measure protects the state's bond rating -- "which we have indications we can" -- and preserves funding for infrastructure projects.

The Longmeadow Democrat said he has "been outspoken with leadership" on the issue. Pressed by host Janet Wu on why no accord has emerged from the State House, he said it has been held up by "getting the coordination and getting the agreement together in the Legislature to make that happen, and we've been working on that."

One of the other two LG candidates, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, said earlier this month on the same TV program that she would "definitely be open to" a "short term" gas tax suspension.

Efforts to tack a gas tax holiday onto various legislative vehicles have been soundly defeated by Democratic majorities in the two branches. The Senate voted 11-29 against adding the measure to a midyear spending bill in March, with Lesser joining the majority in opposition. The House followed in April voting 32-124 against baking a gas tax holiday into the fiscal 2023 budget.

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified