Temporary Gas Tax Cap Fails in NC

State senators head home without intervening on Jan. 1 gas-tax recalculation

North Carolina House members agreed Monday to temporarily cap the state's gasoline tax -- on the verge of sharply rising in the new year -- but the Senate decided to leave Raleigh without taking up the idea, saying it wasn't the right time to consider it.

The full House tentatively backed a bill keeping the state motor fuels tax at 35 cents per gallon through June 30. The gas tax is recalculated automatically twice annually - Jan. 1 and July 1 - based on a formula linked to wholesale gas prices. The Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal staff estimates the state tax would grow to as high as 38.9 cents without the cap.

"Maybe 4 cents on the gallon is not a lot," said Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, before the House voted 96-23 in favor of the bill. "But if you're unemployed or underemployed, then every penny counts and these are the people that we need to help at this time."

The measure could receive final House approval Tuesday, but it didn't matter because the Senate scheduled to hold a procedural session just after midnight Monday and go home without taking up any more legislation. That means the bill is dead.

(More on the North Carolina gas tax . . . )