Time Not Right For Gasoline Tax Increase

Time Not Right For Gasoline Tax Increase

Gasoline prices are on the minds of many these days, and it’s understandable, considering insiders say the price per gallon could be well in excess of $4 by Memorial Day weekend.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the average price per gallon of unleaded gas yesterday was $3.49 on the lower shore, compared to last month’s average of $3.09; six months ago, $2.59; and last year, $2.73.

This rising pinch at the pump comes at the unfortunate time when Maryland legislators are debating an increase to the gasoline tax. On the table is legislation that would add 10 cents per gallon in the form of a state tax.

For a 15-gallon vehicle, that would be a $1.50 more than is currently paid. Not that big of a deal, many say, but when you look at that figure over a year it’s a little more impressive. Using a year with a conservative 40, 15-gallon fill-ups for a vehicle, that equates to an increase of $60. For a family of four with two vehicles, using the same 40 fill-ups per year for each vehicle, that means $120 more.

It was interesting to learn this week exactly what makes up the price of a regular gasoline gallon. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 67 percent of the cost comes from crude oil; 13 percent from taxes; 11 percent from refining; and 9 percent from distribution and marketing.

Of course, the legislation pending in Annapolis will shift this formula, but the breakdown is worth keeping in mind the next time you are at the pump.

Proponents of the gasoline tax say the money it will raise will be used to restore funding to the town’s roads and transit programs that has been steadily cut in recent years in a weak economy. The logic goes that increasing this tax will help the economy through more engineering and construction jobs through state transportation projects, which could now be approved with the increased funding. Plus, they say the gas tax hasn’t been increased in 20 some years.

We on the shore understand the need to move forward with needed road projects. There are a number of infrastructure needs throughout the peninsula that need attention, not the least of which is the continued dualization of Route 113. However, now is not the time to add to Marylanders’ tax burden. Legislators should not put their hands deeper into our pockets at this perilous time.

The more than $100 increase the gas tax will have on Maryland families may not likely spark outrage, but it’s significant nonetheless and sends a bad message. The perception here is not worth the rewards. It’s also worth remembering many businesses will be affected tremendously by the increased tax as their expenditures will soar in a time when a general recovery seems to be imminent.

The legislature would be wise to reject this gas hike for this year and revisit it in the future when gasoline prices return to some sort of normalcy, whatever that may be.