Why increasing the gas tax is a bad idea
For the Nevada Appeal
Every problem in this country can be fixed by a tax increase. Or at least, the majority party in Congress apparently believes that is the case. In this Congress we have seen proposals to increase taxes on everything from cigarettes and mining to health insurance and air travel, while also allowing current tax cuts to expire on the marriage tax penalty, death taxes, capital gains and the child tax credit. Adding to this legacy, the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), is currently proposing a 50 cent per gallon gas tax to help combat and reduce vehicle emissions. While I share the desire for a cleaner environment, I do not believe taxing Nevada families is how we achieve this goal. Moreover, this tax will have a disproportionate effect on rural Nevada, where families often have to travel long distances in the course of their weekly routines.
As many of my constituents know, I frequently conduct telephone town hall meetings across the state to hear the concerns of my fellow Nevadans. This technology allows me to stay close to my constituents while I am in Washington. I have enjoyed the opportunity to speak with more than 100,000 households across my district, and contact individuals spread across 110,000 square miles of urban, rural, and suburban areas in every one of Nevada’s 17 counties. This format also allows me to ask a poll question to the listeners, and so I have asked their opinion of this proposed 50 cent per gallon gas tax. I recently shared this information with Chairman Dingell and leadership in both parties in a letter expressing Nevada’s overwhelming opposition to his proposal.
The question I ask is “Do you support the proposed 50 cent per gallon gas tax to help combat and reduce global warming?” I asked this question in my near-weekly events from July through September. Roughly 82 percent of Nevadans asked about this proposal are not in support of this tax increase. The results of this exercise strike me as very obvious – this tax increase proposal clearly does not have the support of the American people.
A commonsense strategy to meet our energy needs and solve our environmental problems is needed today. Our country should embrace a portfolio of energy sources that includes renewable energy, and also support efforts to promote wind, solar and geothermal energy, which are all plentiful in Nevada. I have supported and voted for legislation to help promote alternative fuels and have supported local renewable energy projects and studies in my district. Congress should be able to agree on responsible measures to encourage energy efficiency that would be beneficial to the country. But I cannot and will not support a tax increase, especially one of this magnitude, and firmly believe the American people will not either. As my fellow Nevadans have clearly indicated, this tax increase is just too much to ask the American public. The protection of our environment requires a variety of solutions and exploration of diverse number of fuels – not more indiscriminate taxes on consumers.
If this new tax is implemented, it will cripple family budgets, increase the cost of food and services, and curtail general commerce in the United States. More than these things, however, the idea that tax increases can solve all our nation’s domestic problems is simply out of step with the American public. This proposal is just one more egregious tax increase on Americans, who some clearly believe have too much money in their pockets. Congress should explore cost efficient and innovative solutions to our country’s domestic needs, instead of treating the American taxpayer like an ATM machine.
• Congressman Dean Heller is a native of Carson City. He previously was an assemblyman in the Nevada Legislature and the Nevada Secretary of State.