Fracking rigs like this one have sprung up throughout the Dakotas, Texas, Pennsylvania and other states, helping contribute to lower gas prices along with slack demand in China and India.
Falling gas prices have been like an early, unexpected Christmas present for millions of motorists and working families.
With average pump prices about 60 cents lower than they were a year ago and a dollar lower than they were this summer, many families might find they’re able to put a few more presents under the tree this year.
But don’t get too excited.
Politicians in some states are already devising plans to play Scrooge and snatch the savings before they can even be fully realized.
Seeing the falling fuel prices as an opportunity, legislators and governors in several states are eyeing their state gas taxes as ripe for an increase.
As the theory goes, it’s better to raise the gas tax when prices at the pump are low, even if it’s just a temporary blip, so consumers won’t notice what has been done to them.
Republican governors in Michigan, Georgia, New Jersey, Utah and South Carolina are all pondering hikes in their states’ gas tax, while Democrat governors in Delaware, Vermont and Kentucky are also considering increases.
The federal gas tax hasn’t gone up in 21 years, many of them complain, so they will have to raise the money themselves through state taxes if they are going to fix “crumbling roads and infrastructure.”
American drivers on average use 60 gallons a month in gas; the average household consumes 97 gallons, Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, told the Detroit Free Press.
He said falling gas prices could make it a “no-brainer” for states to increase taxes at the pump to fix aging infrastructure despite politicians considering gas prices to be a third rail for consumers.
Of all the plans on the board, Michigan’s, proposed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, may be the most aggressive. It would more than double the state’s 19-cent gas tax over the next four years to 44 cents on the gallon.
But Joel Griffith, research associate at the Heritage Foundation, says not so fast, Michigan. He writes in a recent article in the Daily Signal that while the state’s roads are in poor condition and in need of improvement, Michigan residents would be better served if Snyder would look at the spending side of the ledger instead of the revenue side.
Griffith says Michigan, like a lot of states, has not spent its existing highway dollars wisely, opting to pump money into unnecessary administrative costs and under-used public transportation systems.
One problem in states like Michigan and New Jersey is that many road projects require union wage rates that inflate costs. Get rid of those inflated salaries and more roads can be built with fewer dollars, according to Griffith, who writes:
“Even worse is the money that Michigan has wasted and continues to waste on urban transit systems, such as the notorious People Mover in Detroit, with few riders and spectacular operating costs and subsidies. If existing gas tax dollars went to roads, not white elephants, the crisis would be largely alleviated without higher costs. Also, Michigan would have a better grasp on what funding level is actually needed to maintain and repair its roads and bridges.
“In the end, Michigan spends more than $200,000 per mile each year for each mile of state-controlled highway—more than thirty other states without much to show for it. It’s time to rein in the spending first—not hike taxes on the working man without a second thought.”
Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center and author of hundreds of articles on the pitfalls of the sustainable development agenda, agrees that Republican governors advocating for higher gas taxes are trying to con taxpayers into coughing up more at the pump.
Written by LEO HOHMANN
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