New Castle News

John K. Manna

February 9, 2013

John K. Manna: Corbett’s plan for gas pumps is really a tax by any name

NEW CASTLE — Nobody likes to raise taxes until it’s time to raise taxes.

And so, Gov. Tom Corbett is calling for an increase in ...

No, he and his transportation secretary, Barry Schoch, say the proposal to lift the cap on the wholesale price of gasoline in Pennsylvania is not an increase in any tax rate.

Technically, they are correct. The governor is not raising taxes, and he may be able to go into his re-election bid next year and claim that he didn’t increase taxes.

However, the effect of lifting the cap on the wholesale price of gasoline is likely to create a tax increase for motorists at the pump.

So, what does it really matter what the governor says? As a former U.S. attorney general famously said, “Watch we do, not what we say.”

Corbett’s budget calls for pumping nearly $2 billion into the state’s transportation system, including money to fix roads and bridges and for mass transit.

He said the state’s current transportation funding shortfall has resulted from inflation, reduced tax income as a result of more fuel efficient vehicles and decades of underinvesting.

Schoch said the state can’t continue to avoid the problem without implications to public safety. If the problem isn’t addressed, it will get more expensive, he said.

Whether Corbett is accurate in saying it has been decades that the state has underinvested in its transportation system, the fact is that there has been an underinvestment. Had the state kept up with road and bridge improvements over the years, perhaps gasoline tax increases could have been kept to a minimum.

There are some legislators questioning raising taxes to provide money for mass transit. It’s difficult to imagine that some of them don’t understand that mass transit plays an integral role in the state’s overall transportation system.

A key point being noted by the Corbett administration is the number of jobs that will be created through these road and bridge improvements. And who said government can’t create jobs?

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