As a result of the explosion of fuel prices, on April 27 the West Virginia Republican Party issued a press release calling on the Senate President acting as Governor to (1) restrict non-essential travel by state employees and to (2) reduce or eliminate the gasoline tax from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Despite the WVGOP's urging, Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has taken no action despite gasoline, diesel and other travel costs continuing to skyrocket.
Tomblin has shown no leadership on this critical family and business issue. Unfortunately, Tomblin is too busy campaigning to spend much time considering the effect of $4.39 per gallon gasoline on the state or family budget.
We again urge Tomblin to issue an executive order restricting all state employee travel that is not essential and not critical to the operation of West Virginia's state government. Additionally, we urge that the state's gasoline tax be substantially reduced or suspended for the critical summer months comprising Memorial Day through Labor Day or until gasoline prices have become more reasonable.
The Obama Administration's weak dollar policies, lack of leadership to pass a national energy policy, and refusal to support domestic energy production is having a terrible and profound effect on West Virginia and our families.
We need immediate action to mitigate our budget exposure to fuel prices. The explosion of fuel prices is going to have a substantial impact on the state budget.
We requested this action when gasoline prices were below $4.00 a gallon. Today, gasoline in some locations is $4.39 per gallon. It could top $5 or $6 soon. West Virginia state government must be responsive to the limitations of the state and family budget.
I am calling on Tomblin to order department and agency heads to directly approve all travel within the state and all out-of-state trips to be approved directly by the governor's office. Non-essential travel must be halted immediately. Each day of delayed action on this proposal will cost the state thousands of dollars. Tomblin needs to take action today.
As for the gasoline tax, West Virginia's is nearly twice that of neighboring Virginia. West Virginia has the 15th highest state gasoline tax in the nation while our per capita income ranks 49th. Food prices and fuel prices are surging.
Something needs to give.
Rather than giving $100 million in giveaways to private corporations or growing the state budget by more than $1 billion over the next ten years as they did this past Legislative session, the West Virginia Legislature should have reduced taxes like the food tax and the fuel tax to directly help all West Virginia families.
Unfortunately, the current leadership in Charleston does not understand that working families and small businesses are having a really tough time.
Editor's Note: Stuart is a Charleston attorney and the chairman of the state Republican Party.