RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Governor Glenn Youngkin is dismissing calls from Democrats to declare a state of emergency to protect Virginians from unreasonable hikes in gas prices.
House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn said this would activate the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act.
This would give Attorney General Jason Miyares more tools to protect consumers from “unconscionable” prices at the pump. Miyares’ office confirmed to 8News earlier this week that he couldn’t exercise these powers without an executive order from Youngkin.
In a one-on-one interview on Thursday, Youngkin said, “I think this is preposterous right now to suggest that we should declare a state of emergency to try to address a series of incredibly misguided political decisions made by the Democrats. I mean, at the end of the day, we have an energy crisis in the world that started because of the Democrats.”
“I just find this to be completely misguided and what we need to do is recognize that we should cut taxes on gas,” Youngkin added.
Former Attorney General Mark Herring’s office collected thousands of dollars in fines after finding several gas stations generated excess profits and took advantage of consumers.
Filler-Corn said states like North Carolina are already reviewing recent complaints of gas price gouging.
“Governor Youngkin has the power to act and help protect Virginians at the pump, but so far, has failed to do so. Instead, he continues to point fingers and waste precious time,” said Leader Filler-Corn. “Virginians do not need talking points and failed campaign promises—we need leadership and action.”
Those comments come after Democrats and one Republican blocked a legislative push from Governor Youngkin to suspend a recent gas tax increase for 12 months.
The proposal to pause the increase is still included in the House’s budget for fiscal year 2023 but not in the Senate’s plan. The two sides will have to come to a consensus through closed-door negotiations.
Delegate Michael Webert (R-Fauquier), who sponsored the gas tax suspension bill, acknowledged it wouldn’t provide immediate relief to Virginians because it wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2022.
“It’s a signal to say we’re working to try to give Virginians a break,” Webert said. “Inflation is literally crushing people and the price of gas is literally crushing people.”
The recent 5 cent-per-gallon hike was approved as part of a transportation omnibus bill sponsored by Filler-Corn in the 2020 session.
Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax), a lead budget negotiator, said Youngkin’s temporary tax cut is still on the table. However, he thinks it would deplete much-needed transportation funding and it wouldn’t have a meaningful impact on gas prices.
“In reality what’s happening now is that the prices are not being driven by taxes, they are being driven by supply,” Barker said. “The experience has been that, when you cut the gas tax, the price of gas doesn’t go down. Just the profits for the oil companies go up.”
Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), a Republican budget conferee, has also raised concerns about suspending the gas tax increase, especially as another proposal to cut the grocery tax would also reduce transportation funding.
“I’m not an advocate for reducing our revenues into the Transportation Trust Fund because we need those dollars to continue to improve our infrastructure,” Hanger said in a previous interview.