Monday, July 28, 2008

Bruce Lunsford's Gas Tax Problem

While I'm on this kick of kicking The Courier-Journal, take a look at Joseph Gerth's column on page B1 of today's paper. Gerth claims that "the biggest problem with" Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's television advertisement attacking Bruce Lunsford's gasoline tax increase

is that McConnell blames Lunsford for a recent increase in the state gas tax but leaves out key points: 1) the hike was 1.5 cents a gallon, a small percentage of the skyrocketing prices lately, and 2) Lunsford worked on the law 30 years ago, though the ad makes it seem it was yesterday.

Let's address each of those points.

First, that Lunsford's tax increase is a small percentage of the price of gasoline doesn't change the fact that it is still a tax increase that brings in literally millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state government, which gives politicians the perverse incentive to do everything to keep gasoline prices high so that tax revenues go up. That might explain, for example, why Lunsford and other Democrats are against drilling for more oil: more supply would mean lower prices for gasoline, which in turn would translate into lower tax revenues. The gasoline tax is a regressive tax, hitting poor, rural Kentuckians the hardest because they are generally the people who have to drive the most. Multi-millionaires like Lunsford feel no pain in their pocketbooks from his gasoline tax increase, but regular people do.

Second, that Lunsford set the mechanism in place 30 years ago to raise gasoline taxes does not change the facts that (a) his bad policy decision is having a real impact today, and (b) rather than renounce the tax increase, Lunsford in recent days has actually boasted about it. Instead of admitting he was wrong and supporting legislation for more domestic drilling that would lower gasoline prices, Lunsford is proud that he has had a part (albeit a small one, Gerth says) in getting them to the sky-high level they are today and he refuses to support anything of substance to bring them down.

The "problem", as Gerth puts it, is not with McConnell's ad; the problem is that big-bucks Bruce is out of touch with the harsh impact of high gas prices on ordinary Kentuckians.

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