Where the Candidates Stand on Gas Tax Summer Holiday

The economy continues to be the most important issue this campaign season, with 81 percent of voters saying America is in a recession and consumer confidence nearing a 22-year low, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll.

With the average gas price nearing $4 a gallon and new reports that oil companies are racking up record profits, voters want to know what the three presidential hopefuls plan to do about skyrocketing fuel costs.

Recent debate on the campaign trail centers on whether lifting the federal gas tax, which is 18.4 cents a gallon, during the busy summer driving season will provide some short-term relief for consumers or merely a quick fix to appease voters.


The Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, was the first to say lawmakers should lift the federal gas tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The tax goes to local governments for road and bridge construction projects, and state highway officials say lost revenue could cost thousands of jobs.

McCain said he would make up for the lost money to the highway fund by taking it from other tax revenue sources.

Sen. Hillary Clinton also supports the federal gas tax holiday, but says McCain has the wrong idea to pay for it. She proposes taxing oil company profits to pay for it.

Sen. Barack Obama split with the two other candidates and said the whole idea of a gas tax holiday is a bad one, calling it a gimmick and a Washington con game that would only save drivers a negligible amount of money.

How Much Savings?

If the 18.4-cent tax were lifted, a driver with a 15-gallon tank would save about $2.70 with each filled tank.

Economists told ABC News that Obama was essentially right on the issue. It's a matter of supply and demand — when gas is cheaper, more people want to buy gas and drive the price up, they said. That means consumers might not even see that $2.70-a-tank savings.

Both Clinton and Obama say that the government should tax oil companies' profits, but McCain disagrees.

One argument against taxing big oil companies is that it would likely end up raising gas prices anyway. The companies would have less incentive to look for more oil sources, meaning supply would go down and drive up oil costs in the long run.