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House Finance Committee Republicans advanced Governor Glenn Youngkin’s gas tax holiday bill and killed Democrats’ alternate $50-per-car tax refund proposal on Tuesday. The bill includes a 100-percent motor fuels tax reduction from May 1 through July 31, a 50 percent reduction in August, and a 25 percent reduction in September.

It also includes a two-percent cap on future annual rate adjustments.

“As I testified to the House and the Senate early in the year, we have an exceptional amount of revenue that we did not expect a couple of years ago in the transportation plan. Over the six years it’s in the billions of dollars. And obviously, the governor has made a pledge to try to get some of the revenue back to the citizens who’ve contributed to the Commonwealth, particularly in this time of high inflation and economic trouble,” Secretary of Transportation Sheppard “Shep” Miller III told the committee.

Currently, the gas tax is 26.2 cents. Virginia’s average gas price is $3.94, up from $2.71 a year ago but down from $4.23 a month ago, according to Republicans said that the money would come out of transportation fund surpluses.

Virginia Democrats have objected to the gas tax holiday plan, listing concerns that lowered costs might not be passed on to consumers, benefits would be shared by out-of-state visitors, and that Virginia’s transportation network would suffer from lost funding. Delegate Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax) presented the Democratic proposal. She presented a statistic saying that the average motorist nationally drives 1,000 miles a month, and that the average Virginian gets 23.7 miles per gallon.

“So if you take those two numbers, and you have your tax holiday is 26.2 cents a gallon, even if it was all passed on, the maximum for the average family is just $11 a month. I know that we’re all hurting in many, many ways, but the $11 a month won’t feed anyone at McDonald’s,” Watts said.

She said that rising petroleum costs are impacting asphalt costs, and as a result, affecting transportation maintenance costs.

“By law, 53 percent of the gasoline tax revenue goes to maintenance: filling the potholes, making sure that you can move the snow, making sure of safety rails. That 53 percent is not something that is back-filled at all with federal dollars, but it’s also where every single working family is touched the moment they get out of their driveway, as to the condition of our roads,” Watts said.

The Democratic proposal would provide $50 per car registered in Virginia, up to $100 per household.

Delegate Tara Durant (R-Stafford) presented the bill on behalf of the administration.

She said, “I’d just like to emphasize that I think we’re in a very unique point in Virginia with our status of the budget that we are currently negotiating. With this surplus that we have $14.7 billion, we have a unique opportunity to tackle both real tax relief for Virginia families as well as focus on our infrastructure and the projects that need attention in the Commonwealth. In terms of tackling some of the misconceptions that have been raised during this committee meeting about gutting some of the infrastructure transportation projects, it simply needs to be clarified that again, this does not affect any existing projects at all.”

In a non-recorded voice vote, the committee voted to send the Republican version of the bill to the House Appropriations committee.

“Today’s vote was an important step in moving our proposal to lower gas prices for Virginians feeling pain at the pump for too long,” Youngkin said afterwards in a press release. “We know there’s plenty of money available to bring some relief to Virginians now as we head into these busy summer months. As we saw in Maryland, this proposal would bring quick relief to Virginians struggling with high gas prices. I applaud today’s constructive hearing and look forward to working in a bipartisan manner with the General Assembly to help pass this important legislation. Virginians are counting on us to put politics aside and deliver for them.”

– – –

Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].

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Tags: delegate tara durant gas tax holiday governor glenn youngkin appropriations committee appropriations committee house finance committee the democratic proposal the democratic proposal gas tax holiday bill percent reduction transportation the commonwealth that the average proposal the committee presented to the house for virginia in virginia the gas tax making sure

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Phillips wins leadership job tasked with promoting the Democratic ‘brand’ 

WASHINGTON – Rep. Dean Phillips, who has called for a new generation of Democratic leaders, will now be among those younger leaders of his party in the new Congress.

Phillips, D-3rd, was elected vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) on Thursday as House Democrats wrapped up two days of leadership elections. In those elections, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, was chosen to lead House Democrats in the next Congress, the first Black lawmaker to lead either party in the House and Senate.

Like Jeffries, who is 38, most of the new Democratic leaders are much younger than the people they will replace when the 118th Congress when gaveled in in January. Those retiring leaders include Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is 82, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who is 83.

Besides pressing for a new generation of Democratic leaders in Congress, Phillips, 53, was the first lawmaker to say he’d prefer President Joe Biden not run for re-election in 2024. Phillips said he wanted a younger, more “dynamic” Democrat be at the top of the ticket.

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The DPCC, which operates out of an unassuming office in the basement of the U.S. Capitol, is tasked with developing the message that would unify House Democrats and draw sharp contrast with the talking points of the GOP. In this Congress, the DPCC adopted “People over Politics” as its mantra.

But Phillips said he wants to shake things up. He said the DPCC has been too focused on developing a message and has not paid enough attention to the Democratic “brand,” and marketing the Democratic Party and its priorities to voters.

“My professional experience has always been studying consumer behavior,” Phillips said.

Elected to Congress in 2018, Phillips is the former CEO of his family’s liquor business, the former co-owner of Talenti gelato and a co-owner of Penny’s Coffee.

Phillips said Democrats develop “very good legislative products” but are “defective” in selling their legislative agenda to the public. He thinks he can fix that.

MinnPost photo by Ana RadelatRep. Veronica Escobar hugging Rep. Dean Phillips as they learn they have been elected co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.Seven Democrats ran for three DPCC vice chair positions and Phillips, who received 81 votes, was among the top three vote getters. The other two were Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, who received 138 votes, and Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Illinois, who received 135.

Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, ran unopposed for of DPCC chairman.

Phillips said he campaigned for his new post by visiting the office of every Democratic House member, delivering a tiny succulent plant to everyone and often meeting with staffers instead of lawmakers to make his pitch. He said hearing the concerns and ideas of those staffers is key, and he surveyed as many Democratic congressional staffers as he could.

“It was very insightful,” Phillips said.

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Phillips and the other new Democratic leaders will take their new jobs during a period of transition for the party, which will be fighting to protect two years of legislative victories won under a Democratic president who had control of both chambers in Congress.

Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-California, who serves as vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, on Thursday congratulated Phillips and the other lawmakers elected DPCC vice chairs.

“Republicans are ramping up an extremist agenda with plans to use their threadbare majority to impose a national abortion ban, slash Medicare benefits and hand out deeply unpopular tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas on the backs of the middle class,” Aguilar said. “It’s more important than ever that House Democrats communicate our priorities and our values to the American people – lower costs, better paying jobs and safer communities.”

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