Thank you, Gov. Tom Corbett, a chief executive so ill-regarded by his fellow Pennsylvanians that they granted him membership in the state’s very exclusive One-Term Governor club. He presided over a three-step gasoline tax increase in 2013 that, by 2016 – had made the Commonwealth’s levy the highest in the nation.
Corbett said the billions of dollars the increase would gain would pay for bridge, highway and other transportation improvements.
For that and other reasons, voters in the Keystone State sent him home. We wanted our roads and bridges upgraded, but not if we had to pay for them. We Americans do not mind making payments on the Exxon CEO’s new airplane, but we object strongly to any suggestion we might help pay to keep our roads and bridges safe.
Corbett’s tax was not applied at the pump, where you and I would pay for it. Instead, he applied the increase to an excise tax levied on gas stations, based on the wholesale price of the fuel they purchased to sell to us. It was the gas stations that passed the price on to us car drivers.
Someone in New England this week took her governor to task because her state’s budget increased almost 10 percent but did not include an increase in highway maintenance money. Additional gasoline taxes likely would be required, according to the governor.
“It’s unfair to make consumers foot the bill,” the person complained. “Tax the corporations.”
“Tax the corporations” has a nice ring, but from drivers buying gasoline to apartment renters, consumers pay the cost of whatever product or service the corporation provides.
More tax increases are coming. (We can only hope they wait until the current prices come down at the pump.) Pennsylvania is one of 12 states and the District of Columbia in a consortium calling itself the Transportation and Climate Initiative of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. The group includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. The TCI is facilitated by the Georgetown Climate Center as the 12 states and D.C. search for ways to deal with climate change.
Any solution is going to cost money. On a local level, an Adams County township borrowed $250,000 for road work, in part because its share of state liquid fuels tax has been steadily decreasing, as higher-mileage and electric vehicles become more common on our highways, causing more wear to the dollar on our roads – better mileage means more potholes and less money to fill them.
Meanwhile, state transportation departments plan to build more roads to accommodate more cars. PennDOT is drafting a plan to expand a 6-lane piece of interstate near Harrisburg to 12 lanes.
There was a time when pedestrians ruled, but they came to share the roadways with a growing population of horseless carriages. In fairly short order, laws were written that gave cars ownership of the nation’s roadways. In any other social situation, telling someone to move to another gate would be insulting. But when we tell pedestrians to go down to the corner to cross, we call it safety.
Eventually, we must expand public transportation, slow down and give us more time to arrive somewhere. It will be difficult; I have to admit to driving some places when it has been warm enough to walk.
The alternatives will be expensive. Better mileage may cut our gasoline budget, but we will pay from another pocket to fix the potholes.
Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.