Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 144
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for June 20, 2002

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

This August we’ll have a chance to vote on another “highway improvement tax” that’s supposed to do some of the job the tax increase several years back did not do – that’s the gas tax increase we didn’t get to vote on. This one will raise the gas tax by another 4 cents per gallon and the general sales tax by ½ of 1 %. It’s supposed to raise close to $500 million more per year to fix & build highways. I see two problems with this issue: the nature of the tax and the distribution of funds.

I believe that government services such as highways and transportation should be funded to the maximum extent possible by those who use the services. Gasoline taxes and registration fees are the proper ways to fund highways, since everyone is taxed in reasonable proportion to their highway use. Those who drive the most miles or cause the most wear on the roads (e.g., trucks) pay more, those who don’t drive at all pay only through the increased cost of their purchases caused by increased shipping costs. On the other hand, everyone pays sales tax, and most people will pay far more in additional sales tax than they would in gasoline tax. This increase in sales tax will cover everything except groceries; you’ll pay more on utilities (gas, electric & phone), meals out, lodging, and more.

The second problem is distribution. While the issue does remove some of the raids on the highway funds by other agencies, only 78% of the money would go into the road fund. 2% ($10 million) would be used to subsidize ethanol production. The other 20% ($100 million) would subsidize mass transit. Of this, about $33 million would go for “capital improvements”; that’s to fund the pipe-dream of light rail in Kansas City or a high-speed rail link across the state. The remainder would be operating subsidies for Amtrak and local transit and airports, etc.

I’ll be voting against this issue in August; I could have supported a gas tax to fund highway work, but the sales tax and the other distribution of money make it unacceptable.

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