Reject gas tax hike

Kentucky Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, introduced proposed legislation in January that would raise the state’s gas tax by 3 cents to pay for school transportation expenses at public schools.

We documented the likelihood of this in December, writing on the front page of The Daily Independent how the state’s infrastructure is in dramatic need of an upgrade and that legislators and county leaders were floating the idea of raising the gas tax to fund road improvements. We also detailed how Kentucky levies its gas tax, kind of like a sales tax, in that it is based on the price of fuel. The problem with this approach is that the price of fuel is volatile. It goes up and it goes down, and in recent years, the price of gas has been mostly down, meaning the state, and in turn places like Boyd Greenup and Carter counties, get less money to keep their roads in shape.

In 2015 the state froze the rate of the tax and put a floor on it so if gas dropped below a certain price, for example, $2.18 per gallon, then no matter how low the price, the tax was restricted to the set floor.

Other states have recently started taxing gas not based on gas prices but instead to the inflation rate of the overall economy.

Flood said in a press release sent to the newspaper that if her legislation is passed the additional revenue would be locked in for school transportation costs.

“The state is constitutionally mandated to provide a safe and comprehensive learning environment for our students, so I think my bill is a sensible step in the right direction,” said Flood. “It will make sure that a portion of what we all pay for our highways goes toward getting our students safely to and from school. We all have a vested interest in making sure these buses are held to the highest standard of care and maintenance.”

Flood said $30 million would go to bonds for new buses and $60 million through the same formula the state now uses to pay its share of school transportation costs.

Flood’s intentions are certainly noble, and no one wants to see local school districts hammered by increased transportation costs due to upcoming state budget cuts. But there is one big problem with this proposal. It is the elephant in the room, and it is called the pension crisis.

Whatever happened to plans to fix the state’s pension catastrophe? No special session, no bipartisan solutions, no compromise. Instead, the state’s legislators are sticking their heads in the sand, catering to special interests and hoping it all just goes away.

No legislation raising even a penny in taxes should see the light of the day until our elected leaders address the pension crisis and put forth a sensible, reasonable plan to fund the state’s unfunded liabilities.

The Independent of Ashland