Rob Christensen has been hanging out in Raleigh watching the political action for a loooooooong time. (Sources tell me he once had to flee town just minutes before General Sherman’s troops rolled in.)
Rob has been forcibly removed from an NCGOP convention. . He missed then-Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker being hand-delivered a Domino’s Pizza by a uniformed driver while addressing a Democrat Party function. Rob also spent a lot of time following John Edwards around on the campaign trail — never noticing the blonde with the video camera who always happened to be around.
Some of Rob’s more recent writings have me wondering. Is he not getting out of the office enough? Could dementia possibly be setting in?
Let’s take today’s piece authored by Ol’ Rob:
Ordinarily, the prospects of a gas-tax hike would result in a conservative jihad.
Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist would be on the first plane out of Reagan National. Americans for Prosperity, the Civitas Institute, Carolina Rising and other groups would be holding rallies on the state government mall, and orchestrating bus trips around the state. Robo calls would be pouring into lawmaker’s districts, conservative talk radio would be filled with outrage and radio ads would be airing. Tea party backers would be dusting off their tri-corner hats.
But this time, not so much.
Really? Seriously? AFP’s North Carolina office has been all over this. They’ve been providing some valiant leadership against the gas tax hike. (For the record, their campaign is what helped draw our attention to it.) Civitas, by the way, has also been tossing in their two cents. (Granted, there hasn’t been much out of the folks at John Locke. Of course, that is understandable. This issue does not involve any 17th or 18th century English philosophers.)
We’ve been raising cain about it, as have a number of other conservative outlets across cyberspace. My Jones Street sources tell me that some monster-sized hell is being dished out to legislators by folks back home. It was a sneak-attack in the Senate. Many legislators there were caught by surprise. A number I’ve heard from said they would LOVE to have that vote back. THERE IS A REASON you have not yet seen a vote on the gas tax in the House.
[…] Just as it took an anti-communist like GOP President Richard Nixon to open relations with China, perhaps it takes a conservative Republican legislature to raise the gas tax.
There has been some conservative opposition. Americans for Prosperity has put out a couple of statements, calling the bill a tax hike disguised as “a Trojan Horse.” Civitas called it “the bad bill of the week.” But opposition has been muted.
A couple ????? (Backtrack three paragraphs and read the links.) NOBODY outside of the Senate chamber, the drive by media, The NC Chamber, or the League of Municipalities thinks this is a good idea. I’ve heard a heck of a lot of frustration with the state Senate about this. I’ve heard it because I actually get out and talk to real people.
There are several reasons for that. For one thing, the GOP legislative leadership has become increasingly politically deft. The gas-tax hike is a neat piece of political jiu-jitsu – a tax hike that doesn’t require lawmakers to vote directly for a gas-tax increase.
The state gas tax is recalculated twice annually based on the average wholesale price of a gallon of gas, rising and falling along with gas prices.
The measure that has passed the Senate changes the way the tax rate is calculated. The change would result in a 2.5-cent reduction in the tax rate on March 1, from 37.5 cents to 35 cents. But the bill would set a new 35-cent floor for the tax, even though it is projected to fall to about 30 cents in July. The bill would also increase the wholesale multiplier that is a big part of the gas-tax formula. The Office of State Management and Budget says the changes will bring in an additional $250 million per year.
This is a tax increase by any other name, but it is a backdoor tax increase. It gives lawmakers plausible deniability, so they can go back home to tea party groups and say with a straight face that they did not vote for a gas-tax increase and be technically accurate.
He’s actually right there. THAT is exactly what the Jones Street crowd is doing. We have to decide if we’re going to let them get away with it.
The North Carolina conservative groups are also loath to criticize their legislative allies. For conservatives, this is the legislature of their dreams – having pushed through record tax cuts, opposed Medicaid expansion, passed new abortion clinic restrictions, opened up the state for more energy exploration and reduced unemployment benefits, among other things.
They are not about to go to the mat over a back-door gas-tax increase.
The conservatives probably are not crazy about some of the suggested alternatives to a gas-tax hike such as toll roads, special taxes on heavy trucks or raising the sales tax on cars. (There are a lot of Republican auto dealers and trucking company executives out there.)
You forgot the concept of cutting CRAP out of the state budget: corporate welfare, sales tax refunds to airlines, sales tax exemptions for data centers, bike trails, the Human Relations Commission, to name a few. South Carolina and Virginia seem to be able to fund their roads juts fine — with a lower gas tax than ours, and a lower local-state tax burden per capita than ours. MORE:
The conservatives – once the outsiders – are the new political establishment in Raleigh. And criticizing lawmakers might also hurt their ability to land plum political or lobbying jobs.
In the past, Democratic proposals for a gas-tax hike have created a hue and cry. When Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt proposed a gas-tax hike in 1981, the political organization of U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms launched a political campaign to block the measure in the legislature, spending more than $200,000 ($520,000 in today’s dollars) in ads.
North Carolina has the highest gas tax in the South and one of the highest in the country. It is about to go higher if this legislation passes. But with Republicans in control, the conservative, self-styled taxpayer watch dog groups seem to have lost much of their bite.
I know more than a few folks in the legislative building read this on a daily basis. If you enact this dog of a piece of legislation, you will hear General Maximus giving the order to “Unleash Hell.” Many of you will lose your jobs. GOP base turnout will suffer in future elections. With this bill, you are stirring up a family feud when you didn’t need to.
Raising the gas tax will jack up the cost of doing business. It will also jack up the cost of goods and services. A declining overall gas price allows businesses to find savings to reallocate to things like hiring new people, improving facilities, and / or the quality of its goods and services.
I am so tired of hearing the lie about less gas being bought because of fuel efficiency. Basic Econ 101 tells you that, when a desired good’s price goes down, demand goes up. People were driving less because it was hard to afford driving when the price was near $4 per gallon! Just like cutting income tax rates, cutting the gas tax will produce more revenue and be less of a hindrance to the people and the economy.