10/05/05 — Think again: Governor needs to consider reducing gasoline tax

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Think again: Governor needs to consider reducing gasoline tax

When your city or state is on a list of high prices and California is actually below you in the rankings, you ought to know that you have a problem.

And if Gov. Mike Easley thinks that having North Carolina as No. 3 on the AAA national gas price survey is nothing to be concerned about, he might want to think again.

Hawaii — notoriously the most expensive state in the nation — and Washington, D.C., are the only places North Carolinians can look to and say “they have it worse than we do” when it comes to how much it takes to get to work in the mornings.

And then there is the list in a national business magazine of the cities suffering from the gas price hike. On that list, Raleigh-Durham has a prominent spot as well.

The reason for North Carolina’s coveted spot on the high price list is, in part, some say, because of the high gas tax here. Gov. Easley has already said he will not cut the tax, saying the state needs the money for road construction.

Forget the obvious observation that if fewer people can afford to be on the roads, there will be fewer of them filling their tanks. Fewer people buying gas means less, not more, revenue. So, actually cutting the gas tax could bring in more money, especially if the price is lower here than in other places.

But for now, since we would have drive about five hours to Washington, D.C., or swim to Hawaii to find a place with a higher price, North Carolina better start thinking about how to handle the gas price dilemma.

The call for conservation is still a smart one. Cutting back on trips and carpooling are good ways to cut back on the strain on the family budget and save energy at the same time.

But there is a problem in this state for people who simply must drive to get to work. A family or a senior citizen on an already-strapped budget could face a real predicament if prices continue to climb — or even stay at their current levels. If you only have so much money to go around, if more of it goes for gas, less will be available for other necessities like food, housing and medicine.

And winter is coming, too. Residents are already worried about higher heating bills and what effect that will have on their ability to get by.

Gov. Easley needs to think long and hard before dismissing calls to cut back the gas tax a little as this nation tries to battle back from the effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There are plenty of people who could use some help as they try to balance their budgets and to keep their families going through this crisis.

After the prices have come down a bit and seem to have steadied, the gas tax can go back to its original level.

That way the state budget doesn’t suffer too much, and North Carolina families don’t either.

Published in Editorials on October 5, 2005 9:53 AM