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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Democrats in the Missouri House of Representatives are asking Gov. Matt Blunt to expand the agenda for next month's special session to include a two-week fuel tax holiday, according to a Columbia Daily Tribune report.
With gas prices reaching record levels in recent weeks, they want Missouri's 17 cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel to be temporarily reduced to 7 cents a gallon.
"I'm just like everybody else," said Columbia Rep. Jeff Harris, the leader of House Democrats. "I'm tired of paying high gas prices at the pump. This is a way to give consumers and businesses and school districts immediate relief from high gas prices."
Although a holiday would also mean the state would collect less money from the fuel tax, which is used to build and repair state roads -- Harris said the direct revenue loss would be about $18 million -- he countered that the loss would be offset by out-of-state motorists, particularly in border areas, who would come to Missouri to fill up.
Harris said that when those motorists are included, he assumes the plan won’t reduce revenue at all, although he didn't have specific data to support that estimate. He also said the economy might be picking up steam anyway.
"So you look at those factors, and this will not be a proposal that will hurt our roads," he said.
The governor doesn’t appear eager to embrace the idea. Spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said the proposal is a "risky scheme that could jeopardize vital, ongoing transportation projects in our state." Robinson said that if Democrats were truly concerned about gas prices, they would support Blunt's proposal that all gasoline sold in Missouri be a 10 percent ethanol blend.
The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which represents more than 75 percent of gas stations and convenience stores throughout the state, has not taken a position on the idea.
"I think the politics and the public policy of this issue are best left to the wisdom of the legislature," said Ronald Leone, the organization’s executive director.