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The Tentacle


January 14, 2003

Gas Tax And Slots Have Great Negatives Built In

David 'Kip' Koontz

Well, the General Assembly is off and running, quickly trying to figure out a way to balance the budget. Seems the most popular options to raise cash are a gas tax and slots.

Two great options, huh, a tax and a vice?

Seems the gas tax is in play because Governor Bob Ehrlich says it is the only tax he will support.

How nice!

Last week it was claimed that he was going to actually call for a 16-cent increase in the gas tax, but later he stated he would only support as gas tax increase if it was approved by the legislature and sent to him for his signature.

Nice, put the blame for the tax increase you support on the legislature that is controlled by the Democrats so you have a way to say "you didn't do it" when election time comes around.

Senate President Mike Miller is quoted as saying: "A gas tax increase is the most likely revenue source for Ehrlich and lawmakers to help produce balanced budgets over the next four years." He goes on to say that he doesn't believe there will be an increase this year, but that there needs to be one eventually.

So what will get cut to balance the books?

Most likely jobs and services to those who need them most.

It is funny how we ended up in this budget mess to begin with.

Not too terribly long ago the state was flush with cash. Money was doled out to every pet project that legislators and Governor Parris Glendening could find.

Few complained when state tax dollars were given to parochial schools crossing the public vs. private education boundary - we had the money.

But now the economy has down-turned (Oh, wait! Dubya finally realized that and is going to fix that, right?), the rainy day fund parched and the state's transportation trust fund pillaged to help cover the shortfalls of revenues of the last budget.

Seems state leaders should have saved some cash versus doling it out to everyone who had their hand out as some suggested be done.

Oh, well, that didn't happen and now here we are with a gas tax and slots.

According to a report by the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, only eight states have higher taxes levied on gas than Maryland - heck, ours is even higher than Massachusetts, better known as Taxachusetts!

What is so troubling is that gas prices are already edging upward as there is an oil delivery problem with our shipments from Venezuela - which is why you have seen an increase in prices recently.

When asked why we can't get more oil from OPEC, the response from them was that they could increase the amount they deliver but it would take up to 12 months before we'd see it, and they are concerned the Venezuelan situation will have resolved itself by then and they'd get stuck with deflated prices in the long term.

Some experts, according to news reports read on the Internet, predict that once the U.S. starts attacking Iraq, we could potentially see gas prices pushing $5 per gallon with all things factored in.

And we are going to hike it even more?

Did you realize that this is going on while the oil we get from Alaska actually goes to Japan and supplies Asia with oil and not the U.S.?

And isn't it ironic that George W. Bush comes from Texas, a state whose oil industry is an nth of what it used to be because we prefer to rely on foreign oil that the U.S. is about to go to pseudo-war over yet again?

The rationale for gas taxes seems to be that most everyone drives, thus it is more fair and equitable.

Maybe it would make more people take metro, the bus, carpool or use the MARC train they think, which is pie in the sky idealism as they do not service everyone in the capacity in which they could.

Plus, some folks need their cars and trucks on a daily basis for their jobs.

Anyone in sales, for instance, will be terribly penalized by an increase as they use their vehicles to see clients and so on.

Imagine how much more service calls on home repairs can rise as contractors pass these increases on to their customers.

Those in more rural areas must drive to get to work, shopping, school, church just to live life.

It just goes to show that no matter what happens when it comes to taxes, one group or groups will unduly bear the burden of the tax, yet, all of us can be negatively impacted by higher costs of goods and services.

This tax though, simply, seems to be more of a penalty tax than anything, simply because people drive and it seems too easy to pass up.

Maybe some can give up extra driving trips to conserve, but some will simply not be able to.

In the meantime, maybe it will be proposed that the proceeds from slots be expanded to cover all budgetary needs and not just education - which is in someway a perverse reason to approve more gambling - tying it to our children's future.

Heck, we better consider full-blown casinos, which some have also said will be a reality in the not-too-distant future, so we can tie our state's income to gambling proceeds. Atlantic City is proof that the money comes back to the community for which the proceeds are intended - NOT!

Anyway, as those in the know have told us, it will cost us more for gas as it seems to be the only thing so far the governor and the legislature can agree on.

Maybe a few years ago our elected folks in Annapolis could have given everyone in the state a bicycle, but then that would have meant they were smart enough to know what they were setting us up for!

Well, gotta hurry, the bus is coming.oh, they will most likely have higher fees too - they use gas after all.



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