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What a gas tax holiday could mean for Rhode Island

President Biden wants to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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With Rhode Islanders still paying an average of $4.95 per gallon for gas (the fancy renovated gas station across from LaSalle Academy in Providence was only $4.77 earlier this week), President Joe Biden on Wednesday is expected to ask Congress for a temporary suspension of the gas tax.

Biden is seeking to suspend the federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel fuel for three months, and he’s planning to urge states to follow suit.

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Rhode Island’s gas tax is 35 cents, so if the federal and state taxes were suspended today, the average price per gallon could drop to $4.41. That would mean the cost to fill your 14-gallon tank would be $61.74.

Of course, there are a lot of “ifs” here.

On the federal level, suspending the gas tax requires approval from Congress. There will be concerns from Democrats that a three-month tax holiday sets them up to restore the tax just as voters are beginning to think about how they’ll vote in the November mid-term elections.

In Rhode Island’s case, the Senate is expected to approve the $13.6 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 tomorrow, and it seems highly unlikely lawmakers would be willing to make dramatic changes to the plan this week.

McKee has faced pressure from Democrats and Republicans to suspend the gas tax, but both he and House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi have expressed concern that the savings for the average Rhode Islander would be minimal.

The combination of a federal and state gas tax suspension would offer more relief at the pump, but it’s worth noting that former president Barack Obama was among those who opposed an extended gas tax holiday during his first campaign for the White House in 2008. He called it a “gimmick” at the time.

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This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.