Be hon­est about tax

The Willow Grove Guide - - OPINION -

Penn­syl­va­nia’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture is fi­nally get­ting the at­ten­tion it deserves.

The state Se­nate re­cently ap­proved a $2.5 bil­lion bill law­mak­ers say will in­crease spend­ing by 50 per­cent while pro­tect­ing the safety of mo­torists, eas­ing con­ges­tion and pro­vid­ing an eco­nomic boost to the state. It’s now in the hands of the state House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, and the full cham­ber could take it up this week. Good. It’s about time. But our elected of­fi­cials should be hon­est about who’s go­ing to be pay­ing this bill — that would be us, at the gaso­line pump.

Most of the fund­ing would come from re­mov­ing the $1.25 cap on the oil com­pany fran­chise tax over three years. At to­day’s prices, it would add an­other 28.5 cents per gal­lon to the bill paid by whole­salers, ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion.

Some law­mak­ers said they don’t ex­pect that move to have a big im­pact on con­sumers.

“It’s not a di­rect, penny-for-penny con­nec­tion be­tween the whole­sale tax and prices at the pump,” Dauphin County Demo­crat Sen. Rob Teplitz said. Says who? kot whole­salers like Bob As­tor, the fleet man­ager at Ship­ley En­ergy who said his profit mar­gin runs 0.5 cents to 1.5 cents a gal­lon.

“If the tax goes up 28 cents a gal­lon, how will that not af­fect prices at pump? Of course, it will,” he said, adding con­sumers will solely ab­sorb the in­crease.

“For the Leg­is­la­ture to think the whole­saler will be able to ab­sorb the 28.5 cent per gal­lon tax in­crease is ab­surd. Where are we go­ing to get the money from? We’re go­ing to pass it on to the end user or re-seller,” As­tor said.

That makes a lot more sense than law­mak­ers’ vague claims to the con­trary. And it makes law­mak­ers’ at­tempts to mit­i­gate any pain pale by com­par­i­son. The Se­nate plan in­cludes tem­po­rar­ily low­er­ing the state’s 12-cents-per-gal­lon flat tax paid at the pump to 11 cents in 2013-14 and 10 cents per in 2014-15.

So we’ll likely pay 28.5 cents more per gal­lon, but in ex­change we’ll also get a 2-cent break — tem­po­rar­ily. Gee, thanks. So why not just be up front with con­stituents? That is: We — our elected of­fi­cials, tech­ni­cally — have ne­glected our roads and bridges for so long now they are a dan­ger. It’s go­ing to be ex­pen­sive to fix and painful. We’re all go­ing to feel it.

Maybe it’s be­cause law­mak­ers hope to avoid some un­pleas­ant ques­tions.

For in­stance, why are we be­ing asked to shoul­der this sig­nif­i­cant bur­den at the same time the House is propos­ing $300 mil­lion in tax breaks for busi­nesses?

And why don’t we fund trans­porta­tion projects with a rea­son­able sev­er­ance tax on big com­pa­nies drilling for nat­u­ral gas in the state’s Mar­cel­lus Shale for­ma­tion, as ev­ery other large gas-pro­duc­ing state col­lects? Why did we set­tle in­stead for a rel­a­tively pal­try fee on drillers?

Why does this ad­min­is­tra­tion and Leg­is­la­ture al­ways turn first, hand out, to those least able to af­ford it? Th­ese are rea­son­able ques­tions. Any straight an­swers? 21st Cen­tury Me­dia News Ser­vice

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