Tourists Tamed by Precarious Pumps

Last spring, several of my friends and I drove to Florida for vacation. I had no idea the drive would turn out to be a highly calculated pilgrimage from gas station to gas station, plotting every stop with the precision of a paranoid mapmaker. Oh how naïve I was. Imagine my shock when it was determined that no fuel should be bought until we crossed the border into (fuel-wise) cheaper South Carolina! Here I was, a proud North Carolinian skipping over my own state simply to save a buck on gas.

Sadly, my story is not an isolated one. Summer is in full swing, and as vacationers contemplate traveling there will be increased temptation to pass over North Carolina in favor of cheaper locales, denying the state of much needed revenue. Worse still, local businesses relying on tourists and travelers will be hurt in the process.

When travelers pay more to fill up, they will likely cut back elsewhere. A trip to the lake may replace a trip to the beach. Persons who do make it to the beach may decide not to drive the extra 30 miles to a local lighthouse. A trip to the lighthouse may result in taking home digital pictures instead of a local artist’s painting. The examples are endless. When families do not wish to drive in North Carolina, more is missed than transportation funding; the whole state feels the sting.

On July 1st, the state gas tax increased 2.5 cents to a whopping 35 cents a gallon (the feds tack on an additional tax of 17.5 cents). With this increase, North Carolina has surpassed Florida to impose the highest gas tax in the Southeast.

The state gas tax is based on a flat rate formula of 17.5 cents per gallon, coupled with a seven percent tax of the wholesale price of fuel. That means that in six months when the price of fuel is re-evaluated once again, there is a good chance the gas tax will creep up higher, discouraging even more people from filling up in North Carolina.

What is required now to ease the pain at the pump for consumers, as well as increase the customer base for North Carolina-owned gas stations and businesses, is the restoration of a gas tax ceiling. The notion was floated through the General Assembly this past legislative session, but failed after a lack of consensus as to how to make up the state revenue lost from decreased taxes. I’m not entirely convinced that this revenue is “lost” more than it is tied up in poorly planned projects and bureaucratic red tape, considering the multiple reports and studies concluding similarly.

North Carolina’s tourism industry and summertime economy rely too heavily on persons fueling their vehicles for legislators to take the gas tax lightly. Squeezed for time at the end of the previous legislative session, lawmakers must, in the future, take time to look at making transportation in North Carolina less costly for citizens and visitors alike.

This op-ed originally in appeared in Wake Weekly and the Lincoln Tribune

This article was posted in Legislative Activity by Andrew Blackburn on July 19, 2011 at 9:24 AM.

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Comments on this article

  • 1

    Jeffrey Robinson
    Jeffrey Robinson Jul 20, 2011 at 8:22

    Since most of the money in the highway fund is transferred out anyway, what good is the gas tax doing? It is certainly not being used for it’s intended purpose (roads? anyone?) Sorry politicians, I will continue to fill up in SC and not be a part of your drunken spending orgy.

  • 2

    Jake Jul 20, 2011 at 8:54

    Our system of road repairs is simply ludicrous. Our state and city leaders continually waste money on complete repaving projects of roads that have little or no damage in areas that see little traffic use, instead of roads that are in dire need or repaving. These are programmed every some many years (supposed wear out date) instead of having a bidding process when a job needs to be done. It is like every North Carolinian replacing the appliances in their home every 5 years just because they should be worn out by then.

  • 3

    Andy Jul 20, 2011 at 10:02

    With all of the funds coming from the gasoline taxes, why are we having to pursue toll roads now in North Carolina? Could the NC legislature possibly be diverting funds originally promised to be used only for road construction and repair to other areas?

  • 4

    Republican Rascals
    Republican Rascals Jul 20, 2011 at 11:34

    Shameful that the republican leaders of the House and Senate have presided over such a ridiculous and unnecessary confiscation of taxpayer monies.

    Stam, Berger, et al should be tar and feathered! The DOT is a bureaucratic boondoggle and these geniuses just gave them more money to waste.

    Jim Black and Marc Basnight must be proud.

  • 5

    MM in NC
    MM in NC Jul 20, 2011 at 11:46

    I came back on Monday of this week from a trip to Ohio where at the time gas was almost 20 cents more expensive per gallon. I noticed prices were similar to Ohio in Virginia and WV. To my surprise, by the time I was back NC was the same as the rest.
    True gas is expensive in NC and most of the US but isn’t that what the current administration warned us they wanted? They want Americans to jump into the “Smart” cars used all over Europe. They are toy cars and Americans will not buy them.

  • 6

    Rose Jul 20, 2011 at 13:29

    Years ago I drove up and down US1 between Sanford and Cary for work. When I first started this daily routine US1 was a 2 lane highway. Shortly after I started driving this route, NC decided to extend this stretch of road to a much needed 4 lane highway.
    What I found utterly ridiculous was that even on Saturday/Sunday and Holidays they were working on this project. About 2 years in, the money for this project was exhausted.
    I just can not understand who in their right minds would pay a 3 day pay rate for 1 day of work? It did not surprise me that they ran out of money…. but it does bother me that they had no concept of how to manage the project.
    Although the project has since been semi completed (10 years later we are still awaiting the completion of the bypass around Sanford) the project came in at 3x the estimated costs, not including the bypass… who know when that will be completed (I have seen no work on it for the past 4 years) And yet, we continue to see restoration work being done on this very stretch of US1 almost daily.
    I honestly believe that Perdue spends most of her time promoting herself, trying to convince North Carolinians that we need ballrooms at the beach that would carry her name and blocking any logical suggestions made by any representative not of her party. She tends to come across as deserving and just can’t understand anyone that does not agree with her.
    I personally do not understand how she got elected or how she has managed to stay in office. NC has not had a non-corrupt governor in many years.
    Unfortunately, like many others…. Our family has decided that NC is not the place for us.
    We kept hoping that it would get better, but every time I open my email I see yet another self serving suggestion coming from this Governor. And every legislation that she passes, hurts every single family in NC, with the exception of those on the government payroll.
    If you are really interested in the things that are important to this lady. Go to her website… check out her voting record. If that doesn’t make you cringe… then you are nothing short of immune of bowing to wishes of Princess Perdue!

  • 7

    John Irwin
    John Irwin Jul 21, 2011 at 11:30

    I work in Charleston SC and get home to Sparta, NC only on the weekends. Prior to crossing into NC I fill up. Additionally Sparta is 11 miles from VA. To fill up we drive across the VA line to fill up and as you are filling up, speak with old friends and neighbors as they do the same. It is urksome to me. Can’t find a decent job in Alleghany County, so I work our of state to get raped at the pump.

  • 8

    mtn girl
    mtn girl Aug 11, 2011 at 17:02

    The Republicans refused to follow the public will and keep the 1 cent sales tax but I noticed that they had no problem with the gas tax… The conservatives are making our state a national laughing-stock… please oh please let it be 200 years before we see them again.

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