Everything about the economy is hideous right now. The government manages to claim we have “near full employment,” but the labor participation rate tells a different story.
The one bright spot is the price of energy. But rather then let us enjoy a blessing, Republicans were eager to further exploit us at the federal level.
Politicians at the state level are also ready to increase their plunder. For example, here’s the Knoxville News-Sentinel: “If there’s a Tennessee gas tax increase on the horizon, how much?”
Through more than a year and a half of talk by Tennessee officials about the need for more transportation funding, no one would say publicly how much of a fuel tax increase Gov. Bill Haslam might propose or that state lawmakers might approve.
The latest Vanderbilt University Poll may have set the ceiling — at about 8 or 9 cents per gallon.
Vanderbilt pollsters asked Tennesseans in late November, “Would you be willing or not willing to pay (2, 8 or 15) cents more per gallon on gas if it meant that more could be spent on projects to improve roads and bridges to help ensure economic growth?”
When the results were released this month, 66 percent said they’d be willing to support a 2-cent increase, 54 percent would back an 8-cent hike but only 46 percent were willing to support a 15-cent increase.
Tennessee’s state gasoline tax, 21.4 cents per gallon, was last increased in 1989, by 4 cents per gallon. The 26 years since then is the state’s second-longest stretch without a gas tax increase (other than the 36 years drivers enjoyed without a state rate increase between 1931 and 1967, when it rose from 7 cents to 8 cents). At the urging of two governors — Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Ned McWherter — lawmakers hiked the gas tax four times in the 1980s to finance highway maintenance and two large roadbuilding programs.
The state’s diesel fuel tax, 18.4 cents per gallon, was last raised in 1990, after four increases in the 1980s.
Why assume that there is something wrong with decades free of a tax increase? I think it would make more sense to complain that taxes have not been lowered in decades.
One thing is certain, when gas prices go back up politicians won’t be eager to reduce the taxes.
Of course, the promises of improving the economy are no better than when we were told that if we liked our doctor we could keep our doctor.
If it is so important to improve the economy, and better roads will really accomplish that goal, then politicians should review the whole state budget and choose some items that are less important than improving roads. Then they should cut the money going to those things and put the money into roads. Remember, this will improve the economy, we are assured, so tax revenues will soon go up and the spending can be restored in areas where it was decreased.
If politicians really believed their stories about improving the economy, this is what they would do. But they know they are lying, so this option is unthinkable.
As a general rule, tax revenues should increase as the economy grows, not the other way around. When politicians tell us they want to tax us to improve the economy, they are implicitly admitting that they want to rip off poor people to help the rich.