Lower gas prices have been a relief to Louisianans, but some officials see our savings as a chance to fill the government’s tank with more of our tax dollars.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is one of them. He took office six months ago and already has pushed through over $1 billion in taxes. Now he wants to increase the state’s gasoline tax.
But another gas tax won’t solve our state’s budget problems.
We pay 38.4 cents per gallon of gas between state and federal gas taxes — about 20 percent of our tab at the pump. With gas prices 40 cents lower today than last summer, many of us have used the extra cash to pay off debt or build up our savings accounts. Another gas tax would yank that money right out of our pockets.
This burden would fall heaviest on the low- and middle-income Louisianians already struggling to make ends meet. Commuting to work or bringing your children to school would be that much more expensive.
Besides, we don’t need another gas tax — we just need to hit the brakes on irresponsible and wasteful spending.
Take a look at our Transportation Trust Fund, which is funded primarily by gasoline taxes. In 2014, only 11 percent of its budget actually went toward road construction and repair. Slightly over half the funds covered operations costs for the state Department of Transportation and Development and the State Police. If gas taxes actually went to repair our roads, there’d be no need to ask for more.
Unfortunately, this irresponsible trend isn’t unique to our transportation budget — our state budget as a whole has been pumped with waste.
While state tax revenues increased 13.5 percent between 2010 and 2014, we’re still spending more than we’re bringing in — and not on the taxpayers, either. Last year, Louisiana gave away over $1 billion in incentives, carve-outs and corporate welfare, mostly to wealthy and well-connected companies.
Consider our state’s Enterprise Zone Program, which doles out taxpayer-funded gifts to businesses willing to relocate or expand in Louisiana. The program costs an average of $69 million annually, funding profitable corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, and we don’t get much in return.
Hollywood handouts are another example. This year, our state will steer $180 million of our tax dollars to the pockets of Hollywood big shots. And what do we get? About one quarter for every dollar paid out.
Ending these boondoggles is a far better solution than raising costs for the rest of us. We’re already reaping the rewards of lower gas prices; we deserve to keep our hard-earned money. If Edwards has our interests at heart, he’ll slam the brakes on a gas tax hike.
Louisiana state director, Americans for Prosperity