10/13/05 — No mere ripple: State should not ignore impact of gasoline prices

View Archive

No mere ripple: State should not ignore impact of gasoline prices

A group of Republican lawmakers is asking Gov. Mike Easley to consider a possible cut in the amount of gas tax drivers are paying to fill their tanks in North Carolina.

The dollars and cents result of the tax is not huge, although the rate is one of the highest in the nation. There will only be a few more dollars in anyone’s pocket if the tax is temporarily repealed.

But after weeks of state legislators and others seemingly oblivious to the plight of the average Joe and Jill who might not be able to afford to get to work, at least it is a step.

The high cost of gas is causing more than simply a ripple through communities around North Carolina. High fuel costs affect not only drivers at the pumps, but also the prices of commodities and services that must take into account transportation costs. Shoppers could soon see the effects of the gas prices in the stores as companies try to recoup some of the increase with price hikes of their own.

So, someone should be thinking about doing something.

But even though the gas tax cut is a positive sign that at least someone in Raleigh is paying attention, there is another, more serious issue to contend with across the state.

There is an old saying: If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has white feathers and an orange bill, it is a duck.

Therefore, by applying the same logic, if the average price in the nation for gas is in the $2.80 range and North Carolina’s average is somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.01 and Goldsboro pumps range anywhere from $2.97 to $3.08, something is wrong somewhere.

The state attorney general’s recent decision to file against a gas supply company in Durham because of alleged price-fixing should be the first of many warning shots that let local distributors know that someone is watching what they are doing with prices in North Carolina.

If these companies can justify the recent yo-yo prices, fine. If there is a legitimate reason for the increases and decreases — sometimes in the same day — then North Carolina drivers will just have to do the best they can to juggle their budgets until the crisis passes.

But someone should be asking the questions and demanding accountability.

So, legislators can push for the repeal the gas tax for a while if they think it will help, but more importantly, they need to start looking at the reasons behind the need for the cut, and making sure consumers are being treated fairly at the pumps.

Published in Editorials on October 13, 2005 10:19 AM