gas_pump_0212RALEIGH — State lawmakers have initially approved a measure to lower North Carolina’s gas tax.

The state House and Senate reached a compromised plan on how to reduce the tax rate, while at the same time stabilizing the revenue coming into North Carolina.

Just a few weeks ago, the state House and Senate had very different ideas on how to lower North Carolina’s gas tax. Both wanted it reduced, but the Senate wanted to make the reduction the final one, creating a new so-called floor for the gas tax.

The House wanted a one time reduction that could drop again if oil prices remained low as an incentive for state leaders to act quickly in creating a new revenue source for transportation projects.

On Monday night, the two chambers both took a compromised proposal. The gas tax would be reduced from the current 37 and a half cents to 36 cents on April 1.

At the start of 2016, it would go down again to 35 cents. And in July of 2016, another penny to 34 cents.

Supporters argue this is reduction that North Carolina motorists could notice at the pumps. But opponents say this is still not the amount of reduction motorists would have seen, if the current gas tax formula stayed in place.

“In this conference report, we are denying the gas tax reduction and instead giving a gas tax increase,” said Rep. Larry Hall, minority leader.

Each time the state is dropping the gas tax by a penny it means about 50 million less for state coffers. Lawmakers say they are hopeful that reduced revenue will be the incentive they need to work on a more reliable funding source for the state’s transportation budget.

“It takes an important first step to assure that our state has the resources necessary to keep our roads and bridges open and safe for all members of the public,” said Sen. Bill Rabon, Brunswick Co.

During the conference committee on this bill, a Democrat sat with both the House and Senate side of the negotiations. The original bill saw some bi-partisan support and so did the compromised plan.

But opponents say the negotiators could have done better.

“This is just a tax shift, and I hope you will vote it down,” said Rep. Joe Sam Queen, Haywood County.

But with both the House and Senate approving the measure. It nows heads to the governor where it is expected he will sign it quickly into law.

This bill also has several other tax provisions in it, including one that mirrors federal tax code to let teachers have a $250 tax deduction for buying school supplies.

– Loretta Boniti