Lack of action by state lawmakers and Congress is expected to raise gas prices in North Carolina by more than 8 cents a gallon, starting Sunday.
Half of the increase comes from the state. North Carolina's gas tax is linked to the price of gas and is adjusted every six months. Because gas prices have gone up since July, the state tax, which is already one of the highest in the country, is going up by 3.9 cents a gallon on Jan. 1.
House Republicans attempted to cap the gas tax at its current level of 35 cents a gallon during a brief session last month, but the state Senate adjourned before taking up the measure.
The rest of the impending increase is courtesy of Congress.
For decades, the federal government has subsidized ethanol to keep its price down and encourage people to use it. That subsidy cost taxpayers about $6 billion dollars last year, so Congress decided not to renew it.
When the credit runs out Sunday, the ethanol required in a gallon of gas will cost 4.5 cents more.
Gas station owners like Mike Whalen are stuck in the middle. He said angry customers shouldn't blame him for the higher prices.
"The state needs money. The federal government needs money," Whalen said. "It's not us getting the money. We're collecting it on their behalf."
The wholesale price Whalen pays for gas went up 17 cents over the past two weeks, he said, so pump prices are more about the market moves than the government moves.
"Whatever the competitors do, we will follow, but we know we can't take an 8.5 cents hit without putting it on the street at some point in time," he said, noting that the full increase likely won't show up on the pump price immediately.
"It'll be relatively quick, probably within a week," he said.
Drivers like Richard Chavis said they don't like paying more for gas, but they have no choice.
"(It's) bad on people on fixed incomes, but (there is) nothing I can do about it," Chavis said.
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