Thursday, October 26, 2006

Too short a cut

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:33 AM |  

The GOP takes too short a cut in this release --
“The new Hatch plan to hike gas taxes by $300 million will hurt Minnesota families and destroy jobs. By reaffirming his support today for a $300 million gas tax increase on hard working Minnesotans, Mike Hatch again demonstrates he is a politician who can’t be trusted to keep his word on taxes.”

- Ron Carey, Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman
For the record, I don't favor raising the gas tax because I think state government is spending a lot of money elsewhere on things that are not its responsibility that ought to be going to needed transportation infrastructure. That said. This quote over simplifies the issue of gas taxes.

Not all taxes and not everything government does is bad. I’ve argued and continue to argue that government doesn’t produce wealth; it only spends wealth created by others. That is true. But government can produce value when it performs tasks that people would pay for given the choice. Maintaining the transportation infrastructure is one such activity.

We are not talking about “bridges to nowhere.” Just because a project creates jobs does not mean it creates either value or wealth. Labor that goes into a bridge to nowhere (any unnecessary project) is labor that could be more productively used in another part of the economy. Tax dollars spent on bridges to nowhere are wasted and would “hurt Minnesota families and destroy jobs.”

But when state money, including gas taxes, is applied to maintaining and improving the transportation infrastructure, it helps Minnesota families and creates real jobs that provide real value. IF, and the operative word is IF, gas taxes were necessary to maintain the infrastructure, a gas tax hike would be a good thing. What I and other conservatives argue is that a gas tax hike is not necessary to maintain the infrastructure given the current largess of state government in other areas.

The intent of the “No New Taxes” mantra is to force government to make hard decisions among things it CAN do and the things that it SHOULD do.

The correct knock on Mike Hatch is that he does not want to make the tough budget decisions or cut some of his pet programs (like reducing college tuition, which is not a government function) to come up with the funds for maintaining the infrastructure. He wants to make the easy choice of raising the gas tax.

The GOP oversimplifies the issue to vilify Hatch.