PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — New legislation being heard at the State House seeks to help Rhode Islanders spend less at the gas pump.
Although the gas prices have declined slightly since reaching record highs, state leaders have been looking for ways to provide relief for residents.
Following Connecticut’s lead, Rhode Island Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz introduced a bill that would suspend the gas tax until 2023.
“It’s a no-brainer,” she said, telling 12 News that if the bill passed today it would shave off about 35 cents per gallon.
The bill also keeps open the possibility that the sticker price at the pump could remain the same, and instead, residents would receive a check from the state to offset the cost of gas. Gov. Dan McKee said he prefers that option because changing prices at gas stations make it tough to regulate.
“A direct strategy is the best strategy,” said McKee, who worries that without the tax, gas station owners could price gouge and out-of-state drivers could take advantage of the situation.
McKee said he ultimately wants to help in some way.
“We’re also looking at ways to help people potentially maybe on their bus transportation,” he added.
Normally, most of the gas tax goes to the R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT), and the agency said suspending the gas tax would be an estimated $150 million hit to their budget.
RIDOT Director Peter Alviti called the proposal “very concerning.”
De la Cruz said removing the gas tax would not impact ongoing road and bridge repairs.
“We have a surplus of $618 million and we have federal funds, an influx of $2.5 billion for the next five years, so removing the gas tax for this short amount of time will not impact Rhode Works projects,” she explained.