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Last week, the Senate approved a tax plan that would drastically reduce needed revenues and shift the tax responsibility downward, away from the wealthiest tax payers.

This tax plan would also reinstate the cap on the state’s gas tax, which is a revenue source that accounts for more than half of state revenues dedicated for transportation projects. If the plan passes, the cap would be in place for the current 2013-14 fiscal year that began last week, resulting in a $5 million loss to the transportation budget that supports road construction, road maintenance, and public transportation.

Five million dollars is a very small share (.2 percent) of the $2.8 billion transportation budget. The larger cause for concern is that budget writers are following the imprudent precedent set by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who keep enacting short-sighted, quick fixes to the gas tax—rather than reforming the structure of the tax to smooth its volatility. Read More

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The good folks at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center released a new report today that explores the pitfalls of capping the state gas tax (an idea that both Governor Perdue and legislative leaders have proposed) and proposes a better way to make the tax more stable and predictable. Here are the main findings:

  • North Carolina’s transportation budget faces a funding gap. Since the Great Recession, North Carolina has not experienced gradual increases in revenue collections from the gas tax as generally experienced in pre-recession years. The purchasing power of construction and maintenance dollars has also eroded. Read More

There’s been much ado in recent months about North Carolina’s “record high” gas tax levels, but that claim is missing some important historical and economic context.  After adjusting for inflation, North Carolina’s gas tax is actually quite low by historical standards (see chart below).  In fact, it’s only in comparison to a brief period of low gas taxes in the early 1980s that the state’s current gas tax rates appear abnormally high.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There aren’t many in North Carolina who would argue that the state suffers from too little congestion, too few potholes, not enough crumbling bridges, or too many construction jobs.

More than 5,000 of the state’s 13,000 bridges (almost 4 in 10) are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently down-graded North Carolina’s roads from D to D-, and also estimates that poor road conditions cost North Carolina motorists $1.7 billion annually in additional repairs and operating costs.  At the same time, unemployment in the construction industry continues to remain above 13 percent.

Thus, it’s strange that recent statements by some North Carolina lawmakers suggest they may take up a measure after Thanksgiving that would reduce funding for vital transportation projects aimed at reducing congestion and improving the condition of the state’s roadways and bridges.

The measure in question is a seemingly perennial (and typically bipartisan) effort to cap the  state’s gas tax, a revenue source that accounts for more than half of state revenues dedicated for transportation projects.  Despite the impact a gas tax cap could have on transportation revenues, there’s been little discussion of replacing any lost revenue from capping the gas tax. Read More