The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

7 March 2004

Shelling out

Yesterday's price for the lamest grade of unleaded (on which my car returns an honest 24 mpg or so most of the time) was $1.599, up a couple cents from the previous weekend, and allegedly headed still higher.

You'd think this was probably not the best time in the world for the state to contemplate increasing fuel taxes. Still, two measures are in the works: HB 2559 by Rep. Bill Nations (D-Norman), which would increase the gas tax by seven cents and the diesel-fuel tax by nine, and HB 2632 by Rep. Randall Erwin (D-Nashoba) and Sen. Robert Milacek (R-Enid), which calls for five and eight cents respectively, to be phased in over three years. Both bills would require approval by a majority of voters. Nations' measure has already passed the House.

The current tax is 17 cents per gallon on gasoline, 14 cents on diesel, low by regional standards but not exactly chump change. I think, though, that if the state government could persuade the electorate that the tax increase would actually be spent on the state's roads and bridges, which are terrible except when they're absolutely godawful, they could get one of these bills approved in November. Last year, Sen. Mark Snyder (R-Edmond) asserted that there wouldn't be any need for a tax increase if the state would actually allocate all the fuel-tax receipts to roads and bridges, instead of siphoning off some to the General Fund; the Milacek-Erwin bill does earmark the amount of the increase for transportation.

The Oklahoma Trucking Association, of course, objects to this sort of thing, though OTA executive director Dan Case has hinted that he might go along with a smaller diesel increase: "Those highways are our offices," he says, and certainly those offices need a facelift.

Two years ago, I suggested the issuance of wheel stamps to help defray the cost of replacing suspension parts damaged by driving over substandard roads. Obviously this proposal went nowhere. Still, if The Road Information Program has calculated correctly, and each Oklahoma motorist incurs an additional yearly expense of $1053 from "diminished safety, longer delays and increased wear and tear on vehicles," an extra buck at the pump (figuring 12.5 gallons, my usual fillup, at an additional 8 cents per), if it can actually counter most of that expense, strikes me as one hell of a bargain.

Posted at 11:44 AM to Family Joules

Hm. Maybe I'm glad I don't have a car right now. And as the only one I am going to be able to afford will probably be a ten-year-old Buick (if I'm lucky)...

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 12:04 PM on 7 March 2004

A ten-year-old Buick has its charms. For one thing, it's already depreciated to the max; for another, it's probably in better structural condition than the ten-year-old Honda in the next lane. GM may not have much of a grasp of how to make alternators last more than a few years, but you can't knock Body by Fisher. :)

Posted by: CGHill at 12:33 PM on 7 March 2004

Body by Fisher? I'll bet half your audience doesn't know what you're talking about. GM got rid of Fisher Body about 25 years ago I think. It was about the time the first generation of water base paints were used. You remember all those two year old vehicles with very little paint left on horizontal surfaces? What was funny about that paint was that spot repairs were made with laquers due to the extra effort required to cure the water based paints. Some new cars looked like they already had body work preformed by Earl Scheib.

(I was surprised to find Earl Scheib still exists.) He would paint your entire car for $29.95. A little extra if you wanted them to wipe the dirt off first. ;)

Posted by: Mike at 6:55 PM on 7 March 2004

Certainly the Fisher body plant in Detroit has been shut down for ages now, but GM had owned Fisher for so long that it hardly matters — and anyway, most everything carlike out of Motown except Vickie and her sisters at Ford (Grand Marquis, Town Car) is a unibody, rather than a separate body on a frame, anyway.

I do remember when Packard's body maker, Briggs, was bought by Chrysler, and Highland Park informed Packard that Briggs would no longer be available to turn out Clippers and Patricians and whatnot, so Packard, chronically short on funds in those days, had to add a body facility inside their existing plant. Probably hastened their demise by thirty or forty minutes, if you ask me.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:05 PM on 7 March 2004