Legislators Propose Ways to Ease Gas Prices

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Gas prices continue to inch higher, but AAA reports no evidence to suggest the hikes will slow down consumers.

In the meantime, some state legislators have ideas to ease the burden.

Climbing gas prices often signal the summer travel season. Mike Bie, AAA Wisconsin, says "historically, we see a price spike in the month of May."

But clearly it's still March. One motorist stopping for gas says, "I have to buy the gas. I try not to think about the prices."

But Wisconsin is set to break its record. Bie says, "currently the statewide average is $2.12 and the previous all time high was $2.13."

AAA Wisconsin says high crude oil prices have fueled the spike, but the state has other factors at work. "One of the big reasons we're higher than most other states is due to our gas tax, which is among the highest in the country," Bie says.

The tax will raise gas prices in Wisconsin automatically by slightly less than a penny on April 1st.

"It's a little each year, but it really adds up," Rep. Spencer Black says. The Madison-area assemblyman says it adds up to taxation without representation. "It's not a question of whether taxes should be raised or not, it's a question of whether the increase should be automatic."

Black is co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the automatic gas tax. Some motorists wonder if it it's the right course to take.

"It sounds good, but there are always ramifications of everything. So, I guess I'd want to know what it happens if we do repeal it," one driver says.

Another replied, "but if it's used to just line the coffers of the state and it's not used for roads or anything like that, then I think it should be repealed."

Another legislative proposal targets the state's minimum markup law. Opponents of the law say it raises the price for consumers by more than 9-percent.

"In hard numbers it translates to a few cents on the gallon," Bie says.
Because, it requires wholesalers to raise prices by 3-percent and retailers by 6-percent.

The law was designed to protect small shops from predatory pricing by large companies, but critics say it's outdated.

A website for the Petroleum Marketers Association of Wisconsin/Wisconsin Association of Convenience Stores supports the minimum markup law, saying it covers the cost of doing business and ensures competition.

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