There’s word over the past week that another gasoline tax is contemplated for the next legislative session. The amount in this instance is reported to be ten cents per gallon, initially, but the plan is to raise the amount to twenty-two cents “eventually.”
Expressed in terms of cents per gallon, this seems a piddling amount indeed, but be not deceived – because Louisianans consume hundreds of millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel per year. Hence, the total amount of money that would be snitched from our pockets would initially be $300,000,000 (that’s three hundred million dollars for the decimally challenged among us), rising to a gobsmacking $600,000,000 per year “eventually!”
The last time a gasoline tax was seriously considered by our legislature was way back in the year 2017. (That tax proposal never made it out of the House.) Pardon the feeling if 2017 now seems like a very long time ago. Back in those halcyon days, tax receipts and expenditures were merely out of kilter by a few hundreds of millions of dollars, nothing like the nightmare which we shall have to confront in a few short months as the pandemic’s financial effects come home to roost.
So here we are in late 2020 as the holiday season approaches and Governor John Bel Edwards reimposes “Phase 2” on a dispirited citizenry yearning to regain the freedom to live something approaching a normal life. Yet as I write this article thousands of restaurant and hospitality workers are being notified by their employers that they will be out of work for the holidays.
Now there is no doubt that our roads and bridges need maintenance and upkeep, but there are two points to be made here:
Firstly, it takes a tin ear indeed to propose a gas tax increase on the average Joe or Josephine while they struggle to support a family on diminished income. Recall that Louisiana’s unemployment rate was one of the highest in the nation and our economy was bleeding jobs long before COVID-19 ever reached our borders. And we have not fared as well as our sister states in reducing the effects of this pandemic. Democrat political leaders in the state capitol and our three major cities have no remedy to offer us save further lockdowns which will only exacerbate the dire state of our economy.
Secondly, no sane economist, regardless of political persuasion, would even consider imposing a tax increase on an economy still struggling to emerge from a severe recession caused by an ongoing pandemic. What Louisiana needs is business-friendly government at all levels willing to jump through hoops to aid our existing industries and attract new industry. Tax increases are the exact opposite of what is called for if we are ever to emerge from this crisis.
Our state, parish, and local governments will soon confront enormous deficits caused by the depressing economic effects of the pandemic. Hard decisions to cut some services, lay off some employees, and defer some maintenance must be made, but all tax increases should be off the table for the foreseeable future.
Louis Gurvich, Chairman
Republican Party of Louisiana