The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

19 June 2005

The equalizer

Neal McCaleb is on the op-ed page of the Oklahoman this morning pitching for State Question 723, and he let this one slip by:

For diesel, the proposed increase is 8 cents, phased in over four years. I respectfully submit to truckers that it is more than fair for them to be taxed at the same rate as the rest of us, given their 18-wheel axles cause much more wear and tear on our roads than normal traffic.

Were that the criterion, it would seem logical to tax them at a higher rate than "the rest of us," wouldn't it?

Posted at 5:36 PM to Soonerland

I agree. Those who drive for a buisiness should be taxed more than the rest of us, if they are making money off of the roads they wreck.

Posted by: Sam at 5:59 PM on 19 June 2005

I had to go read the story to see that for "the rest of us," the rate is five cents per gallon phased in over three years. I'm unable to come up with any calculation of how eight cents per gallon for 18 wheels/9 axles is the same as five cents per gallon for 4 wheels/2 axes.

And I wasn't told there'd be no math.

Posted by: Matt at 9:36 PM on 19 June 2005

Well, when all the calculations are done and all the increases phased in, the difference between the gas tax and the diesel tax will be zero.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:24 AM on 20 June 2005

Current numbers:
Gasoline — 17 cents
Diesel — 14 cents
(Including 1 cent UST fee, to cover the costs associated with underground storage tanks; the federal taxes are additional.)

Posted by: CGHill at 7:08 AM on 20 June 2005

Those who drive for a buisiness should be taxed more than the rest of us...

As a practical matter, it don't work that way. To a business, taxes are an expense. Expenses are covered by revenue, which they get from you and me. If a business doesn't cover its expenses, it loses money, goes out of business, and puts you and me out of work.

Anything that drives up the other guy's cost of doing business, also drives up our cost of living. It may not be explained just that way in the econ textbooks, but in my opinion it's as close to an Iron Law as you're going to get in that discipline.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:03 AM on 20 June 2005

A recent unpublished letter to the Tulsa World from Tom Elmore states:

One penny of state gasoline tax produced $18.8 million in revenue -- while one penny of diesel tax brought in only $6.4 million. Trucking would have to pay more than TRIPLE its current fuel taxation to actually break even with what the state driving public already pays. Of course, it's also true that a standard "18-wheeler" operating at its maximum legal weight inflicts pavement damage equivalent to 9,600 automobiles -- so merely tripling diesel tax wouldn't begin to cover it.

Call me a cynic but I have a slight problem with the highway construction "special interests" touting additional fuel taxes to line their pockets.

Posted by: Bobby at 8:03 PM on 20 June 2005

I'm just thankful that the "make the turnpikes 'free'" nonesense died (or at least became quiescent) with the defeat of Gary Richardson.

Why would I want to subsidize out-of-state truckers tearning up our roads and making Interstate driving more dangerous?

I'm all for increasing the diesel tax. I will vote against the gas tax increase, partly because I don't trust the gubmint - but mostly because I don't like porkers ordering their own bacon.

(And the crosses - that pretty much settled it)

Posted by: Dan at 12:43 AM on 21 June 2005

The federal diesel tax, last I looked, was 24.4 cents, six cents above the gasoline tax. Then again, with Federal taxes, God only knows where the money goes.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:29 AM on 21 June 2005


It would certainly be true that adding to the cost of delivering goods would raise prices. However, if it becomes the case that trucks were to pay an amount in taxes equitable to the amount of damage they do to the roads, then that simply gives us an honest economic situation where we pay the correct amount for what we get. Subsidizing trucks by soaking passenger vehicles creates a warped economic situation which leads to inefficiency and waste. It may be more efficient to move some of these goods by other means, or for retailers to buy closer to home, but we don't see that happen because trucks are taking advantage of the ability to avoid paying their fair share.

It also might be waise to remember that McCaleb was state Secretary of Transportation for Keating, and for Bellmon, and if the roads suck, he's the individual most responsible for that. He's also, and this is no coincidence, the lead shill for the road lobby.

Posted by: Chris at 10:17 PM on 21 June 2005

I'm still disgusted by McCaleb's white cross stunt. He turned a mourning ritual into a political publicity stunt and then dared ODOT to do anything about it. What a nice man.

Posted by: RRD at 12:25 PM on 22 June 2005

Oh, and let's not forget the white crosses were supposed to represent all the people who died on Oklahoma roads for reasons other than speeding or DUI. Doesn't this imply that all other deaths were caused by deficient roads? Is running a stop sign a road deficiency? Improper lane changes? Distracted driving? Falling asleep at the wheel?

Posted by: RRD at 12:28 PM on 22 June 2005