The 2011 Independence Day weekend is fast approaching. News reports suggest that many families are planning to take "stay-cations" at home this year instead of hitting the highways and byways of the Commonwealth. While there is nothing wrong with a relaxing three day weekend on the couch, Harrisburg lawmakers have the ability to keep Pennsylvanians—and our state’s economy—moving this Fourth of July.
The Tax Foundation reports that Pennsylvania motorists are assessed the tenth highest state gasoline tax in the country. Keystone State citizens pay 32.3 cents per gallon of gasoline at the pump in state gas taxes alone. Combined federal, state, and local gasoline taxes amount to 50.7 cents per gallon. As of Monday, June 13, 2011 the average price for a gallon of gas in the Commonwealth stood at $3.69 according to GasBuddy.com.
The legislature ought to give Pennsylvania citizens a helping hand by declaring the entire Independence Day weekend—Saturday, July 2 through Monday, July 4—as a Pennsylvania Gas Tax Holiday. By removing the state share of 32.3 cents per gallon, Pennsylvanians would be paying about $3.36 per gallon during those three important travel days.
A family on the road visiting Dorney Park, the Pittsburgh Zoo, Presque Isle, Valley Forge, Penn’s Landing, Fort Ligonier, the Gettysburg battle field, the Liberty Bell, the Linesville Spillway (where the ducks walk on the backs of the fish!), or any of the thousands of excellent attractions in the state will see savings of roughly four dollars per fill-up for a 12 gallon tank or almost nine percent of their total expenditure at the pump.
The gasoline tax in Pennsylvania is intended to benefit public infrastructure and transportation projects. Eric Boehm at the Pennsylvania Independent reported in April that the gas tax represents the "the primary funding mechanism for transportation in Pennsylvania" and that the Commonwealth already faces a $3.5 billion deficit in transportation funding which "includes a $484 million in unmet public transportation operating expenses."
The Pennsylvania Gas Tax Holiday over the long Independence Day Weekend is not be intended to starve state government of funds needed to maintain our infrastructure, rebuild our state’s ghastly number of structurally deficient bridges, or improve state roadways. These challenges are immense and deserve the concern and attention of all of our citizens and policymakers. The purpose of a Pennsylvania Gas Tax Holiday would instead be to encourage folks to hit the road, visit relatives, and patronize businesses around the state.
Helping Pennsylvanians upgrade their stay-cations to legitimate vacations for the three day holiday weekend could prove to be highly beneficial to the state’s motels, hotels, roadside eateries, shops, boutiques, restaurants, taverns, and other businesses that may profit from more motorists on the roads. A three day gas tax holiday would not be calamitous to the Commonwealth as it would leave 362 other days in the calendar year for the state to collect its share of the gasoline tax at the pumps.
Hardworking families deserve a break from state government during the upcoming holiday weekend. The legislature has a tremendous opportunity to benefit our state’s families, businesses both large and small, the travel and tourism industry, and our local economies in all 67 counties by enacting a three day Pennsylvania Gas Tax Holiday. The time to act is now to keep Pennsylvania moving this Independence Day weekend.
Nathan R. Shrader can be reached at [email protected]