Gas tax increases on the way?

So often taxpayers say we pay enough taxes, and refuse to support any tax increases. When you look around at what is taxed it seems that there is very little that is not taxed, and the stance of taxpayers with this view becomes understandable. Yet, at the local level the public does sometimes support new or increased taxes for local needs, such as transportation and school bonds.

We have via initiatives and legislation built fences around some tax revenues, assuring that the money raised can only be spent for specific purposes regardless of changing circumstances including shifts in the public’s perception of priorities. One area where attempts to build fences around tax revenue has been the sales tax on gasoline. Highway and transit advocates have succeeded in convincing the public to vote to limit the uses to which that sales tax revenue can be applied.

This kind of fence building has been manageable when government revenues are abundant, and all programs and services can be funded. But, when revenues dwindle that revenue cannot be easily shifted by our elected leaders to higher priority items. For instance, preserving education.

The State Legislature is facing this kind of voter imposed restraint on sales tax revenue raised from the sale of vehicle fuel. A work-around concept has been developed in Sacramento to deal with this. It goes like this: Cancel the imposition of sales tax on gasoline and other fuels and replace it with an excise tax that will be available to the State general fund. To provide a vehicle for replacing the revenue that will be lost to transportation by this move authority would be given to local/regional government organizations to impose a sales tax on gasoline at the local level.

As has been seen with school bonds and transportation taxes, the public is somewhat inclined to support new or increased taxes when they see a local benefit. This theory may soon be tested with regard to sales tax on fuels at the local level as an outgrowth of the on-going State budget crisis. If this approach is adopted, some will see it as a stealth tax increase, others will see it as a long overdue shift to local control and flexibility.

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.