The Democrat-Gazette followed up today on news columnist John Brummett broke over the weekend about the truck lobby’s reluctance to have an election on a 5-cent-a-gallon diesel tax increase because polling detected an anti-tax mood. The truck lobby now prefers an election to continue the existing highway bond program (who says voters will like that any better?), by which the state borrows against future revenues to keep rebuilding roads at an insufficient pace to match the rate at which cross-country truckers destroy them.
The governor most likely will be guided by the truck lobby in calling the election because who else would pay for the campaign if the truckers don’t?
OK, fine. But please note an additional piece of information included in that D-G story, a factor mentioned by a blog reader when I posted a link to Brummett’s column. The freeway repair program included a significant sweetener for Arkansas truckers — a sales tax exemption for trucks and trailers worth an estimated $4 million in lost state revenue every year, beginning next year.
Wouldn’t you know it? Truckers now not only don’t want to pay for a diesel increase, they also want to keep the coming sales tax exemption.
Over my dead body, if I had anything to say about it. Even with the diesel tax, truckers wouldn’t be paying a sufficient amount to recoup the damage they cause. And we’re supposed to give them an additional tax break? I presume Tea Party Republicans (but I repeat myself) will line up lemming-like to say repeal of an unwarranted tax break, even before it takes effect, amounts to a tax increase. I would like to hear, however, what they propose to do about proliferating road damage. Pray?
PS — Fun with math. A $4 million tax cut is equivalent to what 80 million gallons would produce in additional diesel tax revenue at 5 cents a gallon, or 20 gallons per dollar. If a big diesel rig gets 5 to 7 miles per gallon, you’re talking 400 to 560 million road miles. 500 million road miles is a heap of miles. It’s, what, about 300 miles across Arkansas on I-40? It would take more than 1.6 million trips across Arkansas on I-40 to pile up 500 million miles. That’s almost 4400 trips per day, or more than 180 per hour, or about three per minute. Are Arkansas truckers alone likely to pile up that kind of mileage in-state in a year? I have no idea, but it does make you wonder if the tax proposal wasn’t a win/win for Arkansas truckers, even with the nickel diesel increase. It’s surely a pure windfall without it. Car drivers will continue to pay heavily for road construction they don’t cause. Which is how the truckers have always liked it.