Denver gives DNC host committee pass on gas tax
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” The committee hosting the Democratic National Convention is using the city’s gas pumps to fill up on fuel, avoiding state and federal highway taxes, officials said today.
“There’s something there that just doesn’t seem right to me because, in a sense, you’re saying then that the officials who pass the laws are not willing to live by them, and that concerns me,” Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz said.
The issue came up during the council’s weekly meeting with Mayor John Hickenlooper when the Public Works Department requested authorization to be reimbursed by the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee for use of “fueling facilities, fuel and car washes.”
“By doing it this way, by running it through our Fleet Maintenance, that means that that fuel does not pay state or federal highway taxes,” Faatz said.
Christine Downs, a public works spokeswoman, said the host committee is not paying the city’s locked-in fuel rate but one that’s based on the weekly cost of gas. Downs was unable to provide council members an example.
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Downs said the contract with the host committee started in March and that $9,700 had been expended so far. The city anticipates making $466,125 total from the contract, she said.
Faatz asked if it was customary to have “fleets for dignitaries” not pay for highway taxes if they’re using government fuel facilities.
Hickenlooper said it was.
“I believe this is only for elected officials, government dignitaries,” Hickenlooper told Faatz.
“My understanding is in Washington or wherever where this happens on a regular basis, that it’s standard operating procedure. I do know for a fact that they’re doing the same exact thing in Minneapolis,” which is hosting the Republican National Convention, the mayor said.
“Hummmmm,” Faatz said.
Hummmmm is right.
Teresa McFarland, a spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-St. Paul host committee, said they’re getting their gas at the pump.
“We’re not getting a tax break on fuel,” she said. “That’s not the set-up at this end.”
After the meeting, Faatz said it was wrong for the DNC host committee to get a tax break.
“I am just troubled by not having the payment of taxes for what I consider to be a privately funded party, and that’s what the host committee is: it’s a private organization,” she said.
“The DNC is not government. The RNC is not government,” said Faatz, who, at the time, had been told that the “same exact thing” was happening in Minneapolis-St. Paul. “They are political parties and they are putting on a huge party, and that is not providing services to each and every citizen each day.”
In Colorado, consumers pay 40.4 cents in taxes on every gallon of gasoline. That includes the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and the Colorado gasoline tax of 22 cents per gallon.
“If you’ve got a 14-gallon tank, on the average, that’s about $5.66 that they don’t have to pay for fill up,” Councilman Charlie Brown said.
Brown also questioned the need for car washes.
“Why are we washing cars in the middle of a drought?” he asked. “Where are the green police when we need them? Are they poking around restaurants to see that nobody fries food?”