Boles: Gas Tax Cap OK
State Rep. Jamie Boles, the Republican whose district includes most of Moore County, likes the idea of capping the gasoline tax rate.
But he is far from committed on a bill that would make it illegal for anyone of any age to use a cell phone while driving.
“What’s the next thing we’ll restrict drivers from doing? Eating? Drinking coffee? Putting on makeup?” Boles said of the bill that would ban hand-held cell phone usage while driving.
House Bill 31, which was introduced by Rep. Garland Pierce, a Scotland County Democrat, drew spirited debate in a House Commerce subcommittee meeting Wednesday.
Both opposition and support were bipartisan.
Boles said he fears the bill treads too heavily on people’s privacy and their rights in general. Existing law prohibits young drivers from texting or talking on cell phones while driving, but the prohibition does not extend to adult drivers.
“Where is this all going?” Boles asked. “At what age will we stop with restrictions?”
The bill would provide limited exceptions, such as 911 emergency calls and calls by law enforcement officers and first responders in emergency situations.
Boles is more enthusiastic about a bill that would place a temporary cap on increases in the motor fuel excise tax.
This bill, HB 399, was filed last week. It passed the first reading Monday and was referred to the Committee on Finance.
“We won’t lose any money by doing it, and to me, it’s a tax break for drivers,” Boles said.
The existing gas tax law authorizes the state transportation secretary to adjust the tax rate according to a formula based on the latest average wholesale price of gas.
The bill would cap the amount that the tax rate could climb.
Under the proposed cap, Boles said, the state would receive the same amount of tax money regardless of the cost because the tax is applied to gallons sold, not to the cost of gas.
He sees it as a boon to drivers, faced with ever increasing gas prices in a day of severe economic downturn.
Both bills must be approved by the House, then the Senate, and finally signed by the governor before becoming law.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at email@example.com.
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