One of the ideas floating around the Legislature that should be a non-starter is to raise the state sales tax by a penny in order to raise money to fix the state’s crumbling roads and highways.
At the same time, proponents would reduce the state income tax on individuals and corporations with a flat tax of 6.6 percent. At that, total state tax collections would be unchanged.
The idea hasn’t made its way into a bill yet, so the Legislature should kill it before it does.
Before doing anything as radical as raising the state sales tax, the Legislature should increase license and registration fees along with the gas tax, which hasn’t been changed for decades. It’s estimated that the 25-cent-a-gallon gas tax has been eroded by inflation and is worth just 17 cents today.
Registration fees should increase to reflect the fact that hybrid vehicles, which use the state’s transportation system as much as any other vehicle, don’t contribute as much in gas taxes.
The Legislature can’t go back and recoup revenue it lost because it neglected to keep pace with inflation. However, legislators should recognize that consumers could stomach far higher gas taxes because gas prices have dropped by more than 50 percent in the last year and experts say they are likely to remain low.
Good roads are important to commerce, including the tourism that sustains Blaine County’s economy. However, increasing the state sales tax would penalize hotels by making it harder for them to compete for convention business—read fewer jobs.
The Legislature should stamp “Dead on Arrival” on this idea—fast.