Say goodbye to cheap Virginia gas prices, if no action is taken soon

Posted at 4:44 PM, Sep 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-11 11:27:02-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginians enjoy some of the nation's lowest gas rates.

This week the average gallon of Virginia gas was 15 cents cheaper than North Carolina, and 39 cents cheaper than in Washington D.C..

One of the major reasons for this is a lower gas tax passed when the General Assembly approved its historic transportation bill in 2013.

But that soon may change because state leaders believed Washington would pass new Internet requirements.

Buried in the Virginia transportation legislation, which also raised the state sales tax, was a caveat which stipulated that if Congress did not pass "E-Fairness legislation," Virginia's gas tax would increase January 1, 2015, by 45 percent.

E-Fairness is a proposed bill that would require Internet sites to collect sales taxes when selling goods, as opposed to leaving it customers to report the sale on their own.

"The likelihood of them passing this is very low right now," State Senator John Watkins (R-Powhatan) said.

Watkins helped write the Virginia bill in 2013, which  relied on $200 million coming from the Internet Tax Collection law.

"It would've been probably a lot cleaner if we had just put the additional percentage in to begin with, and not base our assumptions on what Congress would or would not do," Watkins added.

At the center of the debate in Congress regarding whether to pass new Internet laws is Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke) who sits on a powerful technology committee holding up the legislation.

Supporters of E-Fairness, like LaDiff furniture owner Andrew Thornton, have argued Goodlatte should decide whether he is supporting Silicon Valley or the Shenandoah Valley.

Thorton said it is not right he has to charge online sales taxes for Virginia customers because he has a physical storefront in Virginia while websites that do not have Virginia retail space don't have too.

"It is absolutely not fair," Thorton said.

Goodlatte's office released a statement that said they were working on the remote sales tax issue and how to address it "while staying true to core conservative values and with the support of a majority of House Republicans."

"However, the state government passing a massive transportation bill, with funding dependent upon the assumption that fundamentally flawed federal legislation would be enacted, was shortsighted," Goodlatte wrote.

"I warned state officials last year that this was a very complicated issue and that they should not assume legislation would be enacted," he said in the statement. "Any concerns regarding the increase in the state’s gas tax have to be addressed by the Virginia General Assembly."