Jun 22, 2022 - News

Colorado won't follow Biden's call for state gas tax holiday, leaders say

Illustration of a giant five dollar bill glowing atop gas station pumps
Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

President Biden is asking states to suspend gas taxes, but Colorado won't immediately join the effort.

Driving the news: Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday praised Biden's call for a three-month federal gas tax suspension, but stopped short of endorsing the move at the state level.

  • Polis spokesperson Conor Cahill told Axios Denver that the governor is "open to additional ways to save people money, including suspending gas fees and taxes, so long as the state legislature didn’t take the money from needed road repairs."
  • To implement a gas tax holiday, Polis or lawmakers would need to call a special legislative session and pass a new law.

By the numbers: The state's gas tax is 22 cents per gallon — on par with the 18-cent federal tax on gasoline and 24-cent tax on diesel. The state expects to collect $662.9 million in gas taxes for the fiscal year that starts July 1, according to a new legislative forecast.

  • A three-month gas tax holiday would reduce state revenues by an estimated $165.7 million.
  • The state tax revenue is primarily sent to the state and local governments for transportation projects. Some money also flows to the Highway Patrol and state Department of Public Safety.

Of note: The current average price per gallon of gas in Colorado is $4.91, according to AAA.

Zoom in: State Sen. Chris Hansen, a legislative budget writer, told Axios Denver that suspending Colorado's gas tax doesn't make sense, for multiple reasons

  • Because of the state's surplus revenue, any reduction in gas tax collections would mean smaller refunds under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.
  • In addition, Hansen worries about the impact on local governments that rely on the money, and whether it would even lead to lower prices at the pump.

"It would be kind of a pointless shell game," he said. Furthermore, local governments "would take a hit and raise holy hell."

Between the lines: The governor — who first called for a federal gas tax suspension in March — worked with Democratic lawmakers to delay a new 2-cent state gas fee until 2023.

  • Polis is open to extending the fee break next year if prices at the pump remain elevated when lawmakers reconvene in January, Cahill said.

This story was updated with additional comment from the governor's office.

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