Over the past few days you may have seen news stories describing the impending introduction of a gas tax increase. Those who suggest Oklahoma should increase the gas tax are using the following reasoning: "Oklahoma has the one of the lowest state-level gas taxes in the country and this justifies an increase."
I don't think this flawed logic will have its desired effect. Several years ago, the proponents of an increase took their tax hike effort to a vote of the people and it was overwhelmingly rejected.
I think this is because Oklahoma voters know the truth. While Oklahoma's gas tax may be less than other states, Oklahoma's citizens are forced to pay for roads and bridges through a punitive and overlapping system of taxes and user fees.
Oklahomans pay their taxes for roads and bridges through the gas tax and confiscatory motor vehicle registration fees and taxes, the latter of which are frequently raided for non-transportation purposes.
They pay user fees each time they use part of the 606-mile state turnpike system. The massive turnpike system ranks Oklahoma second in the nation in terms of turnpike miles. In fact, 14% of all Oklahoma state highway miles are classified as toll roads.
Many Oklahoma despise this form of double-assessment. They know it's wrong -- especially when Oklahoma's leaders have long raided the motor vehicle funds for non-transportation related purposes.
Thus, the flawed logic of premise that we should raise taxes because Oklahoma's gas tax isn't as high as some of the other states.
Secondly, it's important to recognize that there's nothing wrong with having a lower tax rate than other states. In fact, our state government should aspire to meet the core purposes of government by delivering a high quality product at a lower cost.
Why shouldn't we be the best?
Those who attempt to increase taxes are waving the white flag and telling the voters, "We cannot be exceptional. We have to tax and spend just as much, if not more, than other governments."
As a taxpayer, I want my elected leaders to aspire for exceptionalism. I want them to use our tax dollars more effectively and wisely than governments in other parts of the country. I want them to be more innovative than the others. Is exceptionalism too much to ask from Oklahoma's leaders?
Finally, those who ask for the increase may point to the recent downturn in the energy sector and the ensuing reduction in funds available for the Legislature to appropriate. They want to give the Legislature more money to work with during upcoming years.
This logic suggests the likely intent of state leaders to channel the tax increase away from roads and bridges and to the general government fund.
Oklahomans have long detested the practice by which their state government raids transportation taxes for other purposes. They are not likely to appreciate even more of this.
I do not believe the tax increase will move forward but I will certainly vote "No” if it should make it to the House floor for a vote.