The Other Republican Tax Increase

Republicans hadn’t even taken control of the U.S. Senate before one of their high-ranking members opened the door to the usual lazy Republican option to fix budget problems: taxing the poor (The Hill).

Sen. Jim Thune (R-S.D.) signaled Sunday that Republicans might be open to negotiating increasing the gas tax in order to pay for the highway infrastructure spending bill that expires in May.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Thune said that while he is opposed to increasing the gas tax, lawmakers will need to “keep all options” available when they return to Washington this week.

“I don’t favor increasing any tax,” Thune said. “But I think we have to look at all options.”

History shows us that when Republicans talk about the need “to look at all options,” they usually (though admittedly not always) pick the one that keeps government large and moves taxes higher.

That said, if Thune is serious about “all options,” he might want to consider some Jake Novak mentioned (CNBC, emphasis in original):

But look a little more closely, and you find that the term “infrastructure spending” in Washington and many state capitals is slapped on to a lot of things that have nothing to do with what should be considered normal transportation.

I’m talking about spending for hiking trails, bus lines in towns with fewer than 50,000 people with no demonstrated need for mass transit, and millions for a museum in honor of the long-defunct Packard luxury car.

With gas prices plummeting for 103 days in a row now, the calls are getting louder to raise the gas tax to help shore up the almost empty Highway Trust Fund. Some of those calls are even coming from anti-tax Republicans like South Dakota Senator John Thune.

Everyone agrees many of America’s vital roads and bridges are in need of improvements and updates. It’s not just about convenience, it’s beginning to be more and more about safety and ensuring we maintain the key role reliable transportation plays in the U.S. economy.

Five states have already raised their gas taxes, using legitimate concerns about their infrastructure and the lower gas prices recently as an excuse. One of those states was North Carolina, which now has the highest state gas tax of any state in the South, despite being one of the poorer states in the US based on household income.

So, before Thune, the Republicans, or anyone on Capitol Hill and the White House signs off on a tax hike that will hit virtually everyone in America, especially the poor…

Define “infrastructure.” Tax-and-spend politicians like to use the word “infrastructure” in speeches a lot because when you say that word, most of us think of those vital roads and bridges. And who could possibly oppose improving our roads and bridges or at least keeping them safe?

But look a little more closely, and you find that the term “infrastructure spending” in Washington and many state capitals is slapped on to a lot of things that have nothing to do with what should be considered normal transportation.

I’m talking about spending for hiking trails, bus lines in towns with fewer than 50,000 people with no demonstrated need for mass transit, and millions for a museum in honor of the long-defunct Packard luxury car.

I’m also talking about bigger concept infrastructure projects that cause massive budget overruns. Ask the people of Seattle about the massive highway tunnel digging machine nicknamed “Big Bertha.” That $80 million behemoth is currently stuck underground and no one knows when it will be able to resume working on a $1.4 billion project. “Bertha,” by the way has already burned through $1 billion of that funding and has completed just 11 percent of the job so far.

Can you say “cost overrun?”

Boston and the entire state of Massachusetts are still reeling financially from the infamous “Big Dig” project that finished more than five-times over budget and nine years behind schedule.

No one in Congress should even think of approving a gas-tax hike without a promise to prioritize all infrastructure spending. Existing roads and bridges with structural and safety problems should all be addressed before anyone even considers spending a penny on a Big Dig, Big Bertha, or little Packard museum.

Note Novak’s comment that a gas-tax hike “will hit virtually everyone in America, especially the poor.”

As I’ve discussed earlier, Republicans have a serious tax-the-poor problem. Big government Republicans (they know who they are) reach for it repeatedly as their financing mechanism. Small government Republicans (we know who we are) have used them to “pay for” other tax cuts, or re-label them to make them seem acceptable (fees, Social Security contributions, etc.). Working-class voters know better.

As with everything else government does, spending must be funded, but it must also be prioritized, and first. Far too many politicians – in both parties – skip the latter for the former. For Democrats, that means taxing the rich; for Republicans, it means taxing the poor…

…which may explain the Republicans’ recent electoral failures, especially in Virginia.

@deejaymcguire | | DJ’s posts

  • MD Russ

    I don’t recall any state wide Republican candidate in 2013 talking about raising taxes or fees. However, I do remember all of them talking about restrictions on abortion, school vouchers, and other social conservative issues. That may explain recent Republican electoral failures in Virginia.

    • D.j. McGuire

      Really? Did you just forget about Plan ’13 From Outer Space?

      • MD Russ

        Actually, Plan 13 promised to reduce taxes on both individuals and small businesses. The problem was that the Democrats used talking points about exemptions and deductions to make it sound unworkable.

        Tax policy, in the final analysis, is the responsibility of the legislature and not the chief executive. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

        • D.j. McGuire

          What McDonnell proposed was a $1B+ annual tax increase, and what he signed was a $1B+ annual tax increase…your preference for the big Kool-Aid smoothie notwithstanding.

    • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

      You seem to support just about any Republican tax increase (stick- up) on the middle-class and poor that they can fine an excuse to justify?

      Why don’t you break it down for us, try to lower yourself to our level? Give us a lesson in Math 101?

      Please start by explaining why the 10% increase this year alone, one year, was justified in the current Virginia operating budget, in what has been a 0% growth economy? Even with “cooked books” , all they can muster is a couple percent or less in GDP, cost of living, or inflationary increases.

      Gov. Kaine left with a proposed budget of about $75 Billion. Since then, the Republican’s, being led by Gov. McDonnell, with the support of Spender of the House William Howell, and Safari Sen. Majority Leader Norment, have managed to increase that to about $96 Billion in the current bi-annual operating budget.

      The Republican’s had the chance to let T-Mac take responsibility for the current budget, but they decided to keep the proposed McDonnell budget. In my opinion, locked the Dems out.

      Average annual increases of $5 Billion per year! Break it down for us? Give us your take? Justify these percentages?

  • Mark Jaworowski

    I much prefer the imposition of a gas tax to “pay for infrastructure” rather than a hike of income tax rates. The gas tax is the least burdensome. BTW, this Tea Party activist is growing weary of some of you knee jerk anti-taxers, who scream about taxes but offer no alternatives. Maybe I have missed something, but all I hear is kvetching, and nothing else. The reality is quite simple – due to the demands placed on our infrastructure by our growing and mobile population, we need to spend hundreds of billions to build roads, bridges, and tunnels, and maintain those that we have.

    • Matt G.

      Did you miss the point about prioritizing spending? Why can’t we try that first? You can’t tell me there’s not enough useless things we spend on that will cover a lot of the costs that the pols are whining about.

      • Mark Jaworowski

        Alright, Matt G. In what areas would you suggest we spend less? And please be specific. To my great dismay, I am discovering at age 60 that my fellow conservatives are just as adept with the platitudes as liberals have always been (e.g., “We need to cut wasteful spending” or my favorite, “We need to take our country back”). What you and I consider “useless things,” the Democrats consider a “vital safety net.” So, we need to be specific and go after things we can no longer afford – such as benefits bestowed to illegal immigrants. Before we cut one benefit to one native-born American or legal resident, we should make sure everything has been done to cut off funds to those adults who have no business being here. And regardless of what the law may say WRT illegal immigrants, we need to ensure that the bureaucracy is enforcing the law.

        • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

          I would like to say this, regarding what to cut.

          Why should the spending increases be more than the GDP, cost of living, or inflationary increases anywhere in the budget?

          Cuts should come across the board, if for no other reason than to be fair, and the Politicians will always have “pets”, and never agree. They are going to cloud the issues using fear if allowed.

          There is no reason that they can justify the 10% or more annual Virginia budget increases, in a mostly 0% growth economy. EXCEPT!

          The loss of state tax revenue due to the exportation of manufacturing jobs to China, or, anywhere else cheap labor can be found. And, the allowed importation of cheap labor, on top of government subsidization of the hiring of non-natural American born labor, illegal, and executive ordered cheap labor.

          The cost to the taxpayer of the above mentioned, appears to be that the taxpayer will have to be taxed excessively, to allow government to create non-necessary jobs, to replace those lost to exportation and importation of cheap labor.

          In other words, if you want “Made In China” to be “your brand”, then you are going to be taxed excessively. You want to import cheap labor, you are going to pay increased taxes for it. Growth in government will create the better paying jobs. Financed in Virginia by increases taxes and fee’s, on top of a Federal check.

          We will also have to be taxed by the Feds for more military to counter a strong China, made strong by our investing in their economy rather than ours. And, for benefits like healthcare and education for the illegal and subsidized imported cheap labor, and blocking increases in wages made possible by imported cheap illegal labor.

          Now, this being said, even the excessive budget and tax increases, like in those in Virginia, are not enough. (HB 2313) The whole “ponzi” scheme is supported by the “creation” or the
          borrowing of money by the Federal government.

          What state can survive in its current form, without the Federal money that they receive? Just as Virginia relies on transportation money from the Feds, for roads, while using it’s own transportation money to basically fertilize the growth of government.

          And then, at election time, the Republican’s say that Federal spending is out of control for writing the checks that allow Republican’s like Spender Howell to use for massive budget increases. The Dems at least admit what they are going to do regarding spending.

          Say it ain’t’ so?

        • Matt G.

          Except for the emergency services, I say everything is fair game for massive reduction or elimination. I believe govt, in general, is constituted as described in the preamble.

          Yeah that’s a good start with illegals. I get so irked when I go to a grand mart and see a bunch of Latino looking people using EBT cards for food. Sorry, i just know they are overwhelmingly here illegally. I’m not against food stamps completely but anyone here illegally should not be entitled to redistribution payments/services of any kind.

          I’ll say schools are a also a good place to start as well. How much beauracracy is there that is not in any way engaged in teaching kids?

          Of course there are many more areas but you get the gist of where I’m going with it. I could provide a top 3 but what’s the point so long as we agree on what govt should be doing? Everything else is superfluous.

    • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

      Here is an alternative. In Virginia, put a lock box on money for transportation.

      I suspect Virginia is sucking the Feds dry for transportation money now, and using state revenue for other BS. Let’s put some transparency into where all this money now goes?

      Regarding HB2313, my Republican Delegate said at the time that it was twice the money that was actually needed for transportation.

      So, what is Spender of the House Howell actually doing with transportation money?

      Thanks for a great article DJ!

      • DAY8293A

        Welfare and money for illegals is draining the federal budget dry!! That’s where the money is going!

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  • DAY8293A

    I am much more in favor of cutting unfunded programs like WELFARE, and getting rid of the 3 E’S,,, THE EPA, DEPT OF EDUCATION, AND DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY…. That will save billions for the highway fund…. Also, getting rid of ten million illegals, will get millions of vehicles off our roads !!

  • David

    I agree day8293a, also need to get rid of most rebs and demo/commies. The bas..rds are trying to turn this country into another europe…..

  • f8crusader

    We have a tax on gasoline that was deigned just for that purpose(the upkeep of roads and that pertaining too.) Where did it go, in to the general slush fund, and now that being used for other “things” they want some more. Take out a permit to sneeze, makes about as much sence.

  • Pete Ferretti

    When gas prices get so low they threaten our Shale-gas Industry (like now) put a $1gal. tax on to FIX our highways and bridges. This tax automatically expires in one fiscal year and can not even be considered again for 3 years. It can never be used for new construction or anything but REPAIRING highways and bridges! Start this Oct.1,2015 before OPEC raises oil prices again. Their current aim is to lose some $BILLIONS IN ORDER TO PUT OUR SHALE INDUSTRY OUT OF BUSINESS!

  • Bill Gordon

    Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is already raising the gas Tax in California 10 cents a gallon and they already have the highest prices in the country.

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