No tax on gasoline not good policy

Published 11:23 am Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gov. Bob McDonnell said on Jan. 9, “that’s right, no more gas tax at the pump. No sales tax at the pump either.”

The governor’s proposal to eliminate all state taxes on gasoline isn’t bold, it’s terrible policy. It would send exactly the wrong market signal.

By removing a user fee under which those who drive more, pay more for the upkeep of our roads, the proposal could increase the amount of driving and the congestion on our roadways, undermining any additional investment the state might make in capacity expansion.

The shift to the sales tax punishes the significant numbers of seniors and lower-income residents who don’t drive, as well as telecommuters, carpoolers, transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists who are all helping to reduce our traffic congestion.

The governor wishes to take us back to the 1950s and an era of cheap oil that doesn’t exist. At a time when we want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the governor’s proposal will increase our dependency and the risks to our national and economic security.

Because of the nature of the world oil market, the multinational oil companies and foreign nations instead of being invested in infrastructure in Virginia will now capture the 17.5 cents that had been going to the state for transportation. Meanwhile the higher sales tax could depress other productive economic activity.

The dramatic nature of the governor’s proposal is also likely to distract attention from what had been growing criticism of the McDonnell administration’s use of the $3 billion in borrowed funds provided by the General Assembly in 2011, including the $1.2 billion allocated to the egregiously wasteful and unnecessary Route 460.

The public and legislators ought to demand reforms in Virginia Department of Transportation planning and prioritization before giving the governor the additional money he seeks, no matter what the source of funding.

Stewart Schwartz is the founder and the longtime director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and be reached at