UPDATE: (6:30 P.M. March 17, 2022): West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has responded to the West Virginia House and Senate Democrats’ request to suspend the state’s gasoline tax for the next month to help consumers deal with high gas prices.

His full statement has been included in the article below.

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Democrats from the West Virginia House and Senate are calling on Governor Jim Justice to suspend the state’s gasoline tax for the next month to help consumers deal with high gas prices.

West Virginia’s gas tax is currently 37.5 cents per gallon. AAA says the Mountain State’s average gas price is $4.11 a gallon for regular unleaded.

“We are calling on him to have a 30-day cease to that tax, and then backfill our revenue from that with our budget surplus,” said Del. Doug Skaff, (D) Kanawha – Minority Leader.

“We can give back to West Virginians. This way, on an average fill-up, you are saving $8 to $10. If we did away with the state’s 37.5 percent gas tax for 30 days, it will cost that state somewhere between 26 and 27 million dollars,” Skaff added, noting the state currently has a $1 billion budget surplus.

Democrats held a rally on the Capitol grounds at noon, just across the street from an East End gas station. So far there’s been no response from the governor’s office.

The drivers we spoke with are all on board.

“Well, I filled up my car yesterday. It cost 65-bucks. I usually can fill it up for 30-some bucks.” Q: So this would help? “Oh my God, it would help. We would love it right? Yeah, we would love it,” said Andrew Locklear, a driver for his construction crew.

All of West Virginia’s neighboring states are looking at possible gas tax reductions, and that is putting pressure to act.

“We know Virginia’s doing it. And if West Virginia doesn’t do it, then people are going to go across the county lines and border lines to buy their gas in Virginia. And that’s not what we want. We want people stay here in West Virginia to buy their gas,” said State Sen. Stephen Baldwin, (D) Greenbrier – Minority Leader.

This evening, Justice responded with a statement regarding his authority to change the gas tax. The full statement is below.

“I would absolutely love to suspend this tax and provide at least a little bit of relief for hard working West Virginians who are paying the price for rampant inflation and soaring energy costs. However, I cannot legally suspend this tax, only our Legislature can.

“The Democrats absolutely know I don’t have this authority, so I guess what they are really asking me to do is to call a Special Session and ask the Legislature to suspend the gas tax. The Legislature just adjourned their 60-day session a few days ago, why didn’t the Democrats introduce a bill at that time? Gas prices were just as high last week as they are now. The answer is this is nothing but a political stunt, designed to get their names in the headlines and make me look like the bad guy. They probably figured I wouldn’t call them out for setting me up to supposedly be against lowering the cost of gas. They were wrong. I would absolutely be in favor of temporarily suspending the state’s gas tax if that was the wish of the Legislature.

“I think it is despicable that these Democrat politicians – whose mothership in Washington DC has gotten us into this mess, placing us on the brink of World War III – are now rushing to climb onto the biggest soapbox they can find to flap their arms around and say, ‘Look what I’m doing to help you.’ This is the same political party that has thrown dirt on our fossil fuels at every turn. And now, suddenly, they’re concerned about the financial strain rapidly increasing energy costs are having on our families? They must be nervous about gas prices being so high during a midterm election year.

“Where were these same Democrats when I submitted a plan that would have seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform West Virginia’s tax structure by repealing our personal income tax; tiering our severance tax, raising wages, raising home values, bringing in more businesses, more people, and making life better for all West Virginians? They were sitting on the sidelines saying, ‘Now isn’t the time.’ But now that it’s politically convenient for them, they suddenly want to cut taxes so badly they want me to break the law to do it.

“Where were these same Democrats when I gave a very important speech just last Friday on energy independence for America? I laid out the blueprint for exactly how we can tap into West Virginia’s rich natural resources to save the world, while at the same time standing united with God and the people of Ukraine.

“Finally, where were these same Democrats in December when I proposed the Inflatocine, a one-time 2.5% bonus to combat the rising costs of inflation?

“Keep in mind that 100% of our gas tax goes directly to our state Department of Transportation for use building and maintaining our roads. Thanks to my Roads To Prosperity program and our renewed focus on secondary roads, we’ve broken the all-time record for road maintenance three years in a row. Our roadways and bridges got to the condition they were in due to decades of underinvestment. But now, through the mechanisms we’ve put in place, we have made miraculous progress in fixing our roads once and for all.

“Let’s just be blunt and honest: West Virginians know all too well that, during the previous Washington DC administration, America and West Virginia were finally reaping the rewards of energy independence. Our coal miners were back to work, gas prices were at historic lows, and America’s economy was reaching new heights.

“Regardless, the out-of-control gas prices aren’t going to be fixed by us giving a tax break for one month. Gas prices have risen almost 60% since this time last year thanks to the Biden Administration’s determination to reverse America’s energy independence. I’ve said it a thousand times, the only real solution here is to tap into the rich natural resources we have in this state and this nation to make America energy independent again.”

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice