COMMENTARY — Why I voted no on the 35 percent state gas tax increase
Published: May 9th, 2017
Last week, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I voted “No,” on the proposed 35% increase in the state gas tax. 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.”
This is flawed logic.
While Oklahoma’s gas tax may be lower 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 both 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 percent of all Oklahoma state highway miles are classified as toll roads.
Many Oklahoma despise this form of double-assessment. They know it’s wrong.
Secondly, it’s important to recognize that Oklahoma’s gas tax tracks closely with our cost of living index ranking. The proposed increase would place Oklahoma’s rate well ahead of other states once cost of living is factored in. In effect, legislators are suggesting that Oklahomans pay significantly more in “real dollars” than the citizens of other states.
Thirdly, by increasing the state gas tax by 35 percent, lawmakers are putting just one more barrier in the way of those who seek to graduate from a life of dependency to a life of productivity.
Why shouldn’t an individual stay on the government welfare system when their ability to commute to work grows ever more expensive?
Fourthly, this is a significant imposition on the business owners who utilize vehicles as part of their business. I just spoke to a local constituent. He’s a solopreneur who must travel across the metro area as part of his business route. This will cut into his profit margin and he’s already in a stressed industry.
Fifthly, depending on the price per gallon, the new state and federal tax levels will now account for as much as 20 – 25% of the cost of gas. That’s simply not an affordable level of taxation.
Fortunately, after the committee vote, as least for the time being, lawmakers abandoned the plan to increase gas taxes.
I will be standing by to vote “NO!” again if the plan is brought back.
NOTE: A Republican from Guthrie, Murphey represents District 31 in the state House.