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What Politicking Has to Do With the Price of Gas

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2007

RICHMOND

Alot has happened in the past month to change the price of gas.

In early August, as the summer travel season began to wane, gas prices dropped to $2.75 a gallon. But last week prices briefly spiked to $2.90 a gallon because Hurricane Dean posed a threat to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. With Dean now headed to Mexico, gas has dropped to $2.65 a gallon.

Next month, however, the price of gas could be as low as $2.50 a gallon or as high as $3.50 a gallon, depending on any number of meteorological, political or economic conditions.

The fluctuations are so dizzying that most consumers might never have noticed if Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and the Republican-controlled General Assembly raised the gas tax to build more roads.

Oh, how some members of the General Assembly up for reelection Nov. 6 wish they had done just that.

Instead, they are left to defend the abusive-driver fees, while Virginia's 17.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1986.

Afraid of being labeled "tax-raisers" -- a potentially insurmountable obstacle in a GOP primary -- the Republican-controlled House of Delegates ruled out a statewide tax increase to pay for transportation.

In a 2005 Washington Post poll, the public backed the GOP's opposition to higher gas taxes by nearly 2 to 1.

Kaine, who was eager to put the transportation fight behind him, went along with the GOP. Kaine and the Republicans instead crafted a transportation funding plan that includes regional taxing districts in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. In Northern Virginia, taxes on the sale of a residence, auto repairs, rental cars, hotel rooms and commercial property might soon be increasing.

And bad drivers across the state could be hit with those controversial fees on felony and misdemeanor driving convictions, including driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit. Fees can run as high as $3,000 for certain offenses.


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