Gasoline tax hike a bad idea

Minnesota is a great state for a lot of reasons.

We have the best parks. We have the best fishing and great roads to get to both. We have great education and statistically speaking, our residents are healthier than the vast majority of our fellow countrymen. We have the best processed meats and beer, and lots of opportunities for ice fishing and snowmobiling.

But we pay for it dearly … and not just in terms of that long winter it would appear we have finally emerged. We pay for it literally in terms of taxes as Minnesota is one of the heaviest taxed states in the country, ranking anywhere from 6-10 depending on the list.

That wouldn’t be so painful if all of the other states weren’t on the coast. However, at least you can see those tax dollars at work here. Great parks, schools, and roads aren’t cheap.

However, there is a limit, and Gov. Tim Walz has found it.

Earlier this week, our newly-elected leader in his first State of the State address and accompanying budget, called for a 70 percent increase in the state’s gasoline tax.

In real money, that would take the existing 28-cent-per-gallon tax and gradually increase it a nickel per year to 48-cents-per-gallon. To put that in perspective, Minnesota is currently below the 33-cents-per-gallon national average, while increasing it to 48 cents would propel the state to the fourth highest in the country behind only Pennsylvania, California and Washington.

Ignoring the comparisons though (a difficult task to say the least), a gasoline tax is not an effective measure to raise funds … if there really is a need to raise funds.

First, a gas tax is especially burdensome on lower-income residents who typically driver older, less fuel-efficient cars that don’t get 60 miles to the gallon, or run on electricity or rice cakes.

It’s also a flat tax and not a progressive one, which equates to taking a larger income percentage from those who can least afford it.

Also, a gas tax is more burdensome on those of us who live in rural Minnesota as we have to drive farther to get where we’re going and where many residents don’t have access to public transit.

Finally, a gas tax is especially tough on farmers who, if you haven’t already heard, are struggling enough thanks to tariffs and low commodity prices.

And then there’s the question of need. Is there really one? The state is currently collecting record amounts of revenue without the increase and has a $1 billion surplus to allocate. Again, all that without the tax increase.

Personally though, and I would bet for most of us here in rural Minnesota, before supporting any kind of tax increase dedicated to improving our roadways, I want to see a plan, and not just any plan.

Call me a skeptic, but I don’t care to spend an extra $3-4 for every tank of gas so the residents of Minneapolis and St. Paul and Duluth can have nicer highways around their communities. I remember the last couple state highway funding plans in which most of our rural projects went ignored and unfunded while most of those highway dollars stayed in the urban areas.

Maybe I’m just being a skeptic, or a tightwad, or a fiscal conservative, but I say with a $1 billion in surplus revenue and no promise any extra tax dollars will get anywhere close to rural Minnesota, it’s OK if we stay in the middle of the pack in regard to the gas tax.

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