Bedford Ramblings
Steve Mills

Does the recent gas tax get your seal of approval?

Posted Thursday, April 20, 2017, at 4:54 PM
View 11 comments
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  • No to any tax increase, especially gas. They just need to budget more wisely...

    -- Posted by espoontoon on Fri, Apr 21, 2017, at 6:34 AM
  • I would have a lot less resistance if I truly believed they had good control of the budget and as you said budgeted wisely. Over the years, I have not seen a trend of that improving.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Apr 21, 2017, at 8:56 AM
  • Not all taxes are the same. Taxpayers seem to envision all taxes as part of a ubiquitous pool from which government services are paid. This is only true of the General Fund. Many funds function more as user fees, with targeted taxes feeding in to cover related expenses. In my version of conservative, user fees are the preferable way of paying for government services. As long as the fund is not raided by elected officials to pay for some unrelated expenditure (and Republicans are just as prone to that temptation as Democrats), the Gas Tax is a user fee.

    Ideally, user fees like the gas tax would be created with a way to account for the gradual increase in cost that is a part of everything. But, it is not. The gas tax is a set amount per gallon, and can only be changed by statute. In the case of the gas tax, there have been multiple factors adversely effecting its adequacy. First is the gradual inflation of costs. If your income had not changed since the 1980's, would you be able to live? Second is the steady improvement in gas mileage. Less tax is being collected per mile driven. If we are going to pay for our roads by means of a user fee, an adjustment had to be made.

    The objections are, of course, the same as all such objections. Everyone wants the government to do something for them. But, no one wants to pay. And so, we justify our unwillingness to do our part; our desire to have someone else pay for our services, by hiding behind vague references to "waste" and "wise" budgeting. Undeniably, there is surely some "leakage" of the gas tax funds. Just the same as there is, always has been, and always will be some "leakage" in every human endeavor. In my old-fashioned, out of vogue, version of conservative, I expect to pay my fair share. I wish the gas tax had not needed to increase. But, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. The time had come for us to pay.

    -- Posted by lazarus on Sat, Apr 22, 2017, at 9:00 AM
  • Good post Lazarus.

    The gas tax is a good example of how taxation should work. It is only paid by those who use the roads, a "user fee" is a good term for it. This is how all taxes should be.

    But, "The Law" in the form of taxation, is being used to plunder the people who do not "use" the service for which they are being taxed. Therefore, plundering is being committed by Law.

    Everyone should pay their part of what they use, but nothing more. The "leakage", as you called it, is where the plundering occurs. The leakage has caused a justified lack of trust and faith in "The Law" and in the representatives who have perverted its purpose.

    It is therefore no longer just simply an issue of whether the tax itself is justified, but whether the tax collectors can be trusted. No amount of taxation can fix the "leaks" when the level of corruption has eroded enormous holes in our fiscal infrastructure.

    If only fixing the government was as simple as fixing the roads. Then, raising an obviously correctly applied tax, such as the gas tax, would be easy to support.

    -- Posted by Liveforlight on Sat, Apr 22, 2017, at 9:18 PM
  • What is acceptable "leakage"? Are the majority of reports we hear and read of theft, misappropriation and misdirected funds inaccurate?

    If so, then our mistrust is unwarranted. If not, then what percentage of loss is the "cost of government"?

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Apr 22, 2017, at 9:55 PM
  • It's difficult to know where to stand but I do feel we must fix our roads.I drive to Nashville 5 days a week and the condition of the roads are very dangerous in some areas.There's nothing like hitting a pothole at 2 am on highway 65 that blows a front tire.Thank goodness I was in a dually pickup truck or I would've flipped.I also would like some of the backroads repaired and made safe.

    -- Posted by beau maverick on Sun, Apr 23, 2017, at 12:04 AM
  • What percentage of leakage would you deem acceptable in a boat or a roof?

    Leakage causes damage. It should be repaired immediately upon discovery. Instead, we have a "Three Stooges" mentality at work. They want to add another hole to the boat to let out the water that has just come in.

    New wine for new wine skins.

    -- Posted by Liveforlight on Sun, Apr 23, 2017, at 12:18 PM
  • Big Boats have leakage, Liverlight. The roof on, say, a domed stadium has leakage. Human organizations, of any size, have leakage. Every large system will have some inefficiencies. That is just a fact of life. We perpetually work to improve, but perfection is not attainable.

    To answer Steve's question, I would be hard pressed to apply a specific number to what is acceptable leakage. I would say "noise level." You have "leakage" in your own budget. Ever have food get shoved to the back of the fridge and go bad? Leakage. Ever lose a wrench and have to replace it? Leakage.It is regrettable to have these small wastes. But, the budget will not founder because of them. The real tragedy is when money is spent foolishly, or not spent, when it ends up costing more because money was not spent when needed. What I saw in my government experience was that the biggest wastes of money came when we elected unqualified people to office. One foolish decision can cost more in a month than decades of leakage. Comparing it to the family budget again, what if you have a damaged roof, and don't repair it to save money? What if you decide to save $30 a month by discontinuing your termite protection? Now, those are decisions that could have catastrophic financial results. How many half jars of spoiled olives would it take to match the cost of termites eating out the supports under your floor, or water rotting out your ceilings?

    We also have some inefficiencies that are built into the structure of our government. How do we make good long range plans, with budgets that only cover a single year? When an elected official, with a two year tenure, makes plans. How long is the longest period that he will be concerned with the results? What motivates him to take actions that have a great result in 5 years, if he could choose a much smaller return that is recognized within two?

    As for the other part of your question; When you read about theft or misappropriation, that is a good thing. It means the internal controls and auditing processes worked. You cannot have a large organization without having some dishonest people getting in. The best you can hope for, is that you have processes in place that uncover their activities sooner, rather than later.

    -- Posted by lazarus on Sun, Apr 23, 2017, at 8:23 PM
  • I think Lazarus has pointed to the relation of acceptable leakage for you Steve. Although achieving "perfection" is debatable, since it depends on the definition of "perfect". The smaller boat/roof/government is easier to seal "perfectly" than the big one.

    The acceptable leakage, it would seem, is directly related to the size of the boat, roof, or government program. In other words, less surface area = less leakage opportunity.

    This is precisely why the size and scope of government and "The Law" should be confined to its minimum size. When the boat is big enough, and the leaks = billions of dollars. Then, one bad decision can sink the ship. Add to that, those willing to drill holes to fill their pockets with the leakage, and you have the recipe for a "Titanic" failure.

    The fact that we hear about it is not a good thing. Because, the fact is, that it is happening, which is not good. It is good to hear of the problem(s), but if nothing is done, then it is neglect, or worse, -complicity. It is far better to hear of how the problem has been prevented or fixed.

    Perfection may or may not be attainable, but it is certainly a worthy goal.

    -- Posted by Liveforlight on Sun, Apr 23, 2017, at 9:54 PM
  • Good reply Lazarus!

    I'm of the opinion that the gas tax that is supposed to go to road funding, should only go to road funding (or road infrastructure)and not to any other funds. If they set the budget from that fund they wouldn't have to raise the gas tax. They just don't want to budget wisely.

    -- Posted by espoontoon on Mon, Apr 24, 2017, at 6:36 AM
  • Some REALLY good comments and observations. That roof analogy strikes too close though. :-)I've got a garage roof that needs repairing but the foundation issue needs repair first. Been told it will be cheaper to tear everything down and rebuild. Yuck.

    Lazarus' comment needs some serious thinking. "How do we make good long range plans, with budgets that only cover a single year? When an elected official, with a two year tenure, makes plans. How long is the longest period that he will be concerned with the results? What motivates him to take actions that have a great result in 5 years, if he could choose a much smaller return that is recognized within two?"

    It makes interesting fodder for discussion about term limits which I support, but...... hmmmm.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Apr 24, 2017, at 9:39 AM
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