Sanders says gas tax should be suspended, replaced with tax on oil companies (Vermont Public Radio)

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By Bob Kinzel

Montpelier, VT
(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders has unveiled a plan to significantly lower gas prices for the rest of the year.

Sanders wants to suspend both the federal and the state gas tax for the next 6 months - he says he'll pay for his plan by imposing a windfall profits tax on the major oil companies.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The idea of suspending the federal gas tax has become a key issue in the presidential campaign. Republican nominee John McCain is backing a plan to suspend the tax for three months and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is also supporting the idea.

Democratic candidate Barack Obama opposes the measure because he says the plan is an election year gimmick that will deprive the federal transportation fund of billions of dollars that are needed to fix up roads and bridges across the country.

Under Sanders' plan, drivers in Vermont would save about 40 cents a gallon for a period of six months - and rather than take the money from the federal transportation fund - Sanders would finance his proposal by imposing a windfall profits tax on the major oil companies.

(Sanders) If you do that, you can have some impact on driving gas prices down. And you have to move forward in a number of other areas, as well, dealing with OPEC, dealing with speculation. But you add all those things up, I think you bring some immediate relief to people right now who simply cannot afford to pay these outrageous high prices."

(Kinzel) Sanders, who's a member of the Senate Transportation committee, says financing the federal gas tax holiday by reducing revenues to the transportation fund makes no sense at all:

(Sanders) Right now, there are estimates that we need over a trillion dollars worth of work to rebuild our roads, bridges, culverts. And that's what the transportation fund is about. So to take money out of the transportation fund would be a very, very bad idea, something that I certainly would not support."

(Kinzel) President Bush and many congressional Republicans strongly oppose a windfall profits tax. Sanders is optimistic that they will change their minds.

(Sanders) We're moving toward an election and you're having a lot of folks, including Republicans, who are going back home and hearing just a real sense of outrage on the part of their constituents. So I'm not sure what will happen legislatively."

(Kinzel) Sanders says he also supports a plan to temporarily suspend shipments to the national strategic petroleum reserve as a way to increase the supply of gasoline this summer.