Evers holds off on state gas tax suspension; pushes for a federal one

Wisconsin gas taxes and fees are the 11th-highest in the nation, WisDOT reports.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announces details of the Wisconsin Help for Homeowners program on...
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announces details of the Wisconsin Help for Homeowners program on Monday, March 7, 2022 at City Hall in Menomonie, Wis.(Jeff Ralph | WEAU)
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 5:04 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With average gas prices in Wisconsin approaching four dollars per gallon, Gov. Tony Evers has already called on federal lawmakers to suspend the federal gas tax to help lower prices. However, the governor indicated Wednesday that he is not yet prepared to take that step with the much higher state taxes and fees.

On Tuesday, Evers and four other Democratic governors urged Congressional leaders to waive the 18.4 cent federal tax on gasoline. When asked the next day if he would like to see Wisconsin make a similar move, Evers described the high prices as a “federal issue” and appeared to indicate that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was the sole driver of the record-setting prices seen across the country.

“I think we focus first on the federal government. This is a federal government issue.  We’re not at war in the State of Wisconsin with Ukraine.  It is the United States of America and that’s where we need to look first,” Evers told an NBC15 News photojournalist during a Wednesday news conference.

Wisconsin drivers pay over 50 cents per gallon in state and federal taxes and fees combined every time they fill their tank. While a portion of that goes to Washington, an even larger chunk heads to Madison. The Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation reports drivers in the Dairy State fork over nearly 30.9 cents per gallon as well as two more cents per gallon for a petroleum clean-up program fee. The nearly 33 cents combined per gallon is the 11th highest state rate in the country.

On Tuesday, after Evers released the joint letter to Congress, NBC15 News asked if the governor planned to make corresponding moves for a similar suspension on the state level. After a follow-up inquiry the next morning, Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback responded by saying “[t]hat would require an act of the Legislature, which, as you know, adjourned for the regular session yesterday after also gaveling out of a special session called by the governor without giving it any consideration.”

Evers called for the special session referenced by Cudaback during his State of the State address. However, Evers had summoned lawmakers to the Capitol for the session to weigh the governor’s proposal for what to do during the coming budget surplus. His executive order directed them to act solely on the administration’s proposals for the surplus. It only listed gas prices as one of multiple of economic obstacles faced by Wisconsin residents and did not include a suspension of the gas tax in its description of the proposals.

The Republican-controlled legislature ended the special session Tuesday within seconds of it starting, without any debates or votes.

Later in the day, the legislature wrapped up its two-year session. The session ended well after Evers coordinated with his fellow governors and released their letter about the federal gas tax. Cudaback did not say whether the administration had reached out to Wisconsin lawmakers about a similar move prior to the end of the session.

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