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A tax on Cokes and Nabs will not pay the bill

Date published: 1/21/2013

Having read Speaker of the House Bill Howell's letter to the editor regarding the proposal to eliminate the gasoline tax and replace it with a general sales tax, I would disagree with some of his points ["Proposal takes on state's transportation needs," Jan. 17].

The U.S. Dept. of Energy figure [see at apps1.eere.energy.gov/states/transportation .cfm/state=VA] depicts motor gasoline consumption per capita in Virginia between 1980 and 2010 (gallons). Yes, gasoline consumption has decreased recently; however, the decrease only amounts to about 5 percent of consumption. Howell attributed that decrease to more fuel-efficient and hybrid cars. It is likely that the downturn in the economy and fewer people commuting to jobs played a larger role in that decrease.

Consumption in 2010 increased as the economy was starting to rebound. Fuel-efficient automobiles have been around much longer than since 2008, and consumption was relatively flat from 2001 to 2007, indicating the increase in fuel efficiency was offset by an increase in miles driven.

Howell contended that the decrease in revenue from out-of-state drivers paying gasoline tax will be made up by taxes they pay on consumption of food and lodging here. I am not sure if that is based on actual data, since a source was not cited, but I am skeptical that the entire loss of revenue from gas tax paid by non-Virginians will be made up by these sources.

Decreasing dependence on fossil fuels such as gasoline will not be achieved by lowering the cost of the fuel, or the taxes on that fuel. The price of gasoline with the added tax will help discourage consumption. In the meantime, the people using the gasoline will be subsidizing the transportation budget. Those who choose a green lifestyle by living where they work or by driving a hybrid automobile, and retired folks, will be contributing their fair share to transportation revenue, not an inflated share derived from additional sales taxes they will have to pay. If the transportation budget needs funding beyond gasoline tax revenue, then it will have to be subsidized with other tax revenue, but it should not be funded entirely from non-gasoline tax sources. Tax revenue from non-gasoline taxes will be enough of a burden paid by people who use little of this fossil fuel.

Stephen W. Fuller