Biden, Baker aligned on gas tax holiday

Democrats on Beacon Hill, in Congress not on board

PRESIDENT BIDEN’S call for gas tax suspensions at the federal and state level is changing the rhetoric around tax relief in Massachusetts, but not Democratic opposition on Beacon Hill.

Initially, Democrats dismissed Republican calls for a state gas tax suspension as a gimmick and a stunt, but now they are saying they are opposed to a gas tax holiday because it would only benefit oil companies.

“We fear that, as many economists have warned, a gas tax holiday would result in billions of dollars in profits for oil companies—and only pennies in the pockets of consumers, as the companies cannot be obligated to pass this price reduction to them,” said a statement issued by House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka. “This isn’t fair, and we are not interested in benefiting multinational corporations while our residents continue to feel pain at the pump. The Legislature is working diligently to find ways to deliver direct relief to residents, and we will continue to prioritize solutions that put people first.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, who has largely stayed out of the gas tax debate on Beacon Hill, weighed in strongly on Wednesday, saying he supports a suspension of the state gas tax combined with passage of his tax relief plan that combines tax breaks for seniors, renters, low-income taxpayers, and parents of dependent reductions in the estate tax and the tax rate on short-term capital gains.

“We support passing legislation to suspend the gas tax in Massachusetts as President Biden called for today,” said a statement issued by Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. ‘Thanks to a balanced budget combined with surplus tax revenues, there is more than enough funding available to suspend the gas tax, pass our tax relief plan, and invest in Massachusetts’ future. It’s time to act and cut taxes for the people of Massachusetts.”

Biden is facing resistance from members of his own party in Congress who are not enthusiastic about suspending the 18-cent federal gas tax. Many believe Biden is coming out in support of gas tax suspensions at the federal and state levels to garner support from voters weary of the runup in prices at the pump.

“I fully understand that a gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem,” Biden said in a speech from the White House, “but it will provide families some immediate relief, just a little bit of breathing room as we continue working to bring down prices for the long haul.”