Topeka Legislators aren't sure how much - if anything - they can do about high gasoline prices, but a committee will study the issue later this year to make sure they aren't missing something.
Legislative leaders have assigned the topic to the Special Committee on Energy and Environmental Policy. The committee hasn't set its first meeting, but its review and any recommendations would come before the 2009 Legislature convenes in January.
"We wanted to make sure that there's not some barrier that we've got that we've set up artificially that's hampering prices in Kansas," Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, said Wednesday.
Rep. Joe Patton, a Topeka Republican, requested such a study. He said that with gasoline prices hovering around $4 a gallon, he's receiving plenty of questions from constituents as he campaigns for re-election. He said he sees a duty to respond.
"I'm going door to door; they're saying, 'What about these gas prices?"' he said. "I don't know, quite frankly, whether Kansas public policy is influencing gas prices or not."
Morris said the committee's review will focus on the system for distributing and transporting motor fuels in Kansas, to make sure that there are no problems keeping fuel from getting where it's needed.
"We're not sure there is an issue there, just that oil's going sky high," Morris said.
In the past, the state's fuel taxes, 24 cents a gallon for gasoline and 26 cents for diesel, have been an issue for legislators, particularly in border counties where merchants compete with businesses in states with lower taxes.
If the state were to eliminate the tax entirely, it would save motorists with a 15-gallon tank about $3.60 per fill-up.
Those taxes provide revenue for highway projects. Patton said he's not sure suspending all or part of the tax is an option because gasoline prices would remain high anyway.