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Gas Tax Fuels Fight

Montpelier, Vermont - March 22, 2006

Republicans took to the House floor on Tuesday wanting one more shot at killing an increase in the gas and diesel taxes. "We should not be balancing our budget on the backs of the lowest income Vermonters," said Rep. Tom Koch of Barre Town.

Republicans wanted the House to reconsider the transportation budget that passed last week. The bill included a four cent increase in the gas tax and a six cent hike in the diesel tax. "With our ever increasing energy costs adding a tax and adding more burden not only to the people of this state but businesses...this is tough climate to do that," said Rep. Tom Depoy of Rutland City.

Republicans made the motion because they discovered another committee had saved 12 million dollars by changing when rebates are paid under the state's property tax system. "To pass on a gas tax when we don't need to pass on a gas tax, is just wrong,"said Rep. Peg Flory of Pittsford.

But the Democrats fought back any attempt to reopen the bill. They argued there was a connection between fixing roads and bridges and paying at the pump. "The gas tax has a direct relationship to how much you are using the roads,"said Rep. David Rodgers of Glover.

The Democrats also argued the 12 million dollars was one time money and if the state is going to leverage millions in federal highway dollars, they would need that amount every year for the next five years. "Putting something in the budgetary process that is not going to be there to me does not make sense,"said Rep. Ken Atkins of Winooski. And some Democrats argued Republicans were just playing politics. "It's a kind of political maneuvering that the people of Vermont have a distaste for,"said Rep. Steven Howard of Rutland City.

The House rejected reconsidering the bill 84 to 55. The hike stands. But reconsideration gave the Republicans one more chance to remind the public, Democrats were leading the charge to raise the gas tax. It's something they will remind voters right up until election day.

Anson Tebbetts - Channel 3 News

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