EDITORIAL: GM’s gas-tax fraud

Ripping off motorists is key to the leftist agenda

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Government Motors has become yet another mouthpiece for the Obama administration. General Motors Co. CEO Dan Akerson told the Detroit News Saturday that he wants a $1 per gallon hike in the gas tax. Consumers already facing nearly $4 a gallon prices at the pump aren’t going to be pleased to see that figure jump overnight to $5, but the left and its crony capitalist allies don’t care what the public thinks.

Mr. Akerson wants to use the power of government to make buying a Chevy Volt, GM’s entry into the electric car market, more economically attractive. Such marketplace intervention is apparently needed because a mere 481 Volts were purchased last month, despite government subsidies and incentives worth thousands of dollars. By comparison, Ford sold 42,399 unsubsidized F-series pickup trucks over the same period. That’s almost one big gas-guzzler every minute.

The bureaucratic class at the state and federal level wants you to think the opposite is the case. They perpetuate the myth that gas-tax revenues are dangerously low because everyone is driving a Prius or some kind of electric car. “In the past, the Highway Trust Fund has been largely user-supported through fuel-tax revenue,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s blog explained last year. “However, technology and behavior have changed enough that this approach is no longer sufficient.” That’s the line government transportation officials have been peddling to justify proposals for per-mile taxes, converting the nation’s freeways into permanent toll roads and raising gas taxes.

The claim doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Gas-tax revenues did fall during the Great Recession, but they’re back and on the rise. Even at their worst, motor fuel excise taxes were often more stable than levies on property, sales and income. Consider the numbers from Virginia. Gas-tax revenue declined 2.7 percent in fiscal year 2009 - the largest such decline in the last 20 years. During the same period, individual income-tax collections fell 6.3 percent. The Old Dominion’s drivers are getting back on the road. The latest available figures show gas tax receipts jumped 7.3 percent in April and are up 3 percent for the year. At the federal level, receipts were up 5.3 percent for April and a similar amount for the fiscal year through April.

The excuses cooked up to justify new ways to soak motorists are bogus. Mr. Akerson’s efforts to impoverish his own customers serves as an important reminder of the danger of allowing government and Big Labor to take over a private company.

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