RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – Senate Democrats are proposing to send a rebate check to drivers across the state to help with rising gas costs.
According to a bill filed this week, all adults with a valid North Carolina driver’s license would receive a $200 check or debit card by March 31.
“The biggest issue we hear about is food prices, gas prices, they can’t afford it. So I think we would really be doing the people of North Carolina a disservice if we stepped out of this short session and did absolutely nothing about it,” said Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham County).
Democrats propose using $1.3 billion of this year’s expected $4.2 billion federal surplus to pay for their plan.
“We know the state can afford it,” Murdock said. “I just think it’s very difficult to deny people the funding they need to support their families and survive when we have such a large surplus.”
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in North Carolina on Friday was nearly $4.36 a gallon, according to AAA. That’s $1.45 more than a year ago.
NC State Economist Mike Walden says he expects rates are likely to go higher, but driver behavior could affect that.
“My ceiling on gas prices is probably just under $5, but maybe $4.80, $4.85,” he said. “If people look at those prices and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ll still do something, but I’ll keep it close to home, I’ll limit my driving,’ that would reduce purchases, and indeed it would require some push off gas prices.”
Walden thinks the idea of a rebate is better than temporarily suspending gas taxes, which some other states have recently done.
“My concern with cutting the state gas tax is that the money goes straight to the state road fund to build roads and maintain roads,” he said. “We need every dollar we can get into this fund. So I would be concerned if we lowered the gas tax rate there would be a lot of resistance to raising it again.”
The Democratic bill comes as Republican leaders in the General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper weigh what to do with the surplus.
Republicans have yet to say what specific changes they plan to make to the state budget, but House Speaker Tim Moore said recently that talks about more tax cuts are underway.
“I don’t want it to look like a gimmick,” he said. “I want to make sure that the tax policy that we are considering is actually something that gives people back their money that is not needed by the government. At the same time, it is actually something that will pay off later on.”
He also said they are also trying to weigh the potential for a recession later this year.
Lauren Horsch, a spokeswoman for Republican Senate leader Phil Berger, was critical of the rebate idea.
“A one-time rebate that doesn’t cover the average incremental monthly cost of Biden’s inflation is nothing more than a band-aid. If we’re going to help North Carolina residents afford their day-to-day expenses, we should focus on real long-term, permanent tax breaks,” she wrote in an email.
In his budget proposal earlier this month, Gov. Cooper proposed no tax cuts. He called for additional pay rises for state employees, more money in reserve funds, and various other budget changes.
“High gas prices continue to hurt families across the country and this is one way to ease the strain. The governor will carefully review this legislation and looks forward to the upcoming budget negotiations,” Jordan Monaghan, a spokesman for Governor Cooper, said Friday in response to questions about the discount proposal.
https://www.cbs17.com/news/nc-democrats-discuss-potential-gas-refund-for-drivers/ NC Democrats discuss possible fuel refund for drivers