7 March 2004
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