RALEIGH, N.C. — Senators are considering a proposed change to how the State of North Carolina calculates our gas tax, but other lawmakers worry it could cost drivers more money down the road.
The gas tax funds things like road and bridge repair in North Carolina, an increasing cost as the state and economy grows.
"It's not just going to some overseas oil company and fattening up their profits. Some of that is going to benefit North Carolinians when they drive on new and improved roads and bridges," explained Assistant Professor of Economics Dr. Peter Summers at High Point University.
"We all like to see gas prices come down, but that doesn't come for free," he pointed out.
Under the current system, the gas tax is adjusted every six months in conjunction with fluctuating fuel prices. It is set at 17.5 cents plus either 3.5 cents or 7 percent of the average wholesale price of fuel, whichever is greater. Currently, the minimum gas tax is 21 cents.
The proposed Senate bill would make the formula 17.5 cents plus 17.5 cents or 9.9 percent of the average wholesale price of fuel, whichever is greater. So the minimum gas tax would become 35 cents.
The current gas tax is 37.5 cents. It will be recalculated as usual July 1. Because of recent low gas prices, the gas tax is estimated to drop 6 to 8 cents under the current formula.
That would be a loss of funds for Department of Transportation projects.
"The Senate proposal addresses this fluctuation by cutting the current gas tax and freezing the rate at 35 cents per gallon, setting this as a floor to stabilize transportation revenue going forward," said a statement from the North Carolina Chamber.
It said this is an important step to relieve immediate stress on current transportation needs. "Not only is this necessary for projects, but it is highly critical for jobs which could be negatively impacted if nothing is done."
Not everyone is on board for this change, even though it would lower the gas tax from 37.5 to 35 cents in July.
Progress NC sent a press release to media outlets Tuesday insisting, "While the intentionally deceptive bill would temporarily lower the gas tax by 2.5 cents, it would also raise the minimum gas tax rate by 14 cents. This means North Carolina families would be paying more at the pump over the long term."
Americans for Prosperity North Carolina also sent out a release condemning the new bill.
Senator Gladys Robinson (D) told FOX8 she had serious concerns about Senate Bill 20. "The gas tax is actually going to go up in 2017, 2018, and 2019… Republicans have said they aren't going to increase taxes on the consumers. But this bill will increase the gas tax," Robinson said.
While she's not on the committee, she said she planned to be involved with discussion Tuesday and bring up her concerns.
The N.C. Chamber said the motor fuels tax provides 70 percent of transportation revenue for the state. Many agree funding for needed road projects must come from somewhere.