Reality Check: Newspaper can’t have it both ways!
RALEIGH – A few weeks ago, the Raleigh News & Observer was attacking the conservative majority in the Legislature for not doing something on infrastructure and declining gas tax revenue.
Now that newspaper is mad that the State Senate passed a plan to stabilize gas tax revenue in order to fund an infrastructure program. You can’t have it both ways, fellas!
To recap, the State Senate passed a bill recently to put a floor under the gas tax so it can’t fall below 35 cents a gallon. Under current law, the tax can gyrate up and down based on the price of gas. The Conservative plan cuts the tax immediately from 37.5 cents to 35 and then underpins it so it can’t drop any lower. Given the fact the American oil industry has busted the OPEC cartel with fracking here in America, the tax could plunge without the new floor, siphoning millions from the highway fund that builds and repairs roads.
The News & Observer claims the plan actually raises the gas tax because oil prices might go back up! Well, if these editors know what oil prices are going to do, why are they scribbling newspaper articles instead of trading commodities in New York? Because a lot of forecasters say oil – and hence the gas tax – will drop even further, depriving the state of the money to fix our roads.
In North Carolina, roads are primarily a state responsibility funded by highway user fees like the gas tax. We are second in the nation for the number of miles the state maintains. Other states require local government to fund roads through property taxes.
For example, Virginia makes counties and cities responsible for more road-building costs. Property taxes are 40 percent higher in Virginia that in North Carolina. According to the Tax Foundation, North Carolina property tax amounts to $900 per capita, far lower that Virginia at $1322 per capita, or South Carolina at $1032 per capita – where localities also shoulder more of the burden. And, with our unified state system, we can use economies of scale to reduce costs. We don’t need to have Departments of Transportation in each of the state’s 100 counties bidding against each other! In fact, road paving costs in North Carolina are the lowest in North America!
Isn’t it fairer to pay for roads through a gas tax that has a relationship to how much someone drives rather than dumping the cost onto homeowners through the property tax even if they don’t use the roads that much?
The Conservative majority in the Legislature has made the decision to keep our highway fund from collapsing so roads can be built using highway user fees, not property taxes that are needed to fund schools and local police.
The Republicans are stabilizing the highway fund to build infrastructure. The News & Observer was once in favor. But now that the Republicans are doing it, they don’t like it.
Can there be a clearer example of blatant bias?
Editor’s note: Thanks to Reality Check NC blog, a project of the Carolina Partnership for Reform.