The gas tax

According to Twin Cities Gas Prices, the average price of a gallon of regular gas this afternoon is $3.36. Does it feel like a bargain to you compared to what it was a few weeks ago?

How about $3.12? Would it make you start whistling Happy Days Are Here Again?

3.12, for the record, was the price of a gallon of gasoline when the first installment of the increased Minnesota state gas tax went into effect last spring. Minnesotans responded by pumping fewer gallons in April than they did in March.

Tomorrow, the other shoe drops when the gas tax goes up another 3 cents. Last week, at a transportation forum in Worthington, Margaret Donahoe, executive director of The Transportation Alliance, said the financial impact of a two-car family will be about $100 a year

And, the Worthington Daily Globe, the “us against them” atmosphere that has surrounded transportation funding debates in the state for years, hasn’t melted…

… commented Rep. Doug Magnus, rural Minnesotans are paying more than those in the metro area. He cited numbers indicating that southwest Minnesotans will pay an estimated $216 per capita in gasoline and special fuel taxes by 2011, while the Twin Cities metropolitan area faces $147 per capita for the same year.

A seven-member panel of politicians and candidates said they were grateful to be taking the first steps in the form of Chapter 152, but emphasized the importance of finding more funding for the state’s infrastructure.

“When my family moved here in 1957 all the roads in Iowa were narrow and the roads in Minnesota were wide,” said Al Kruse, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in District 21A, “In the last 50 years everyone else has moved ahead and Minnesota has remained stagnant. Our infrastructure is falling farther and farther behind. (Fixing infrastructure is) important for our economic survival. That’s just to survive. To thrive we need four-lanes. You see what happens around a four-lane highway — there’s economic development there.”

Republicans thought the gas tax issue would anger people enough to carry over at the polls. But that was before overnight swings of 30 to 40 cents a gallon made 2 or 3 cent jumps seem like small potatoes.

With the increasing price of energy, the gas tax funding mechanism faces the same pressures the state’s tobacco tax — or fee — presents. On the one hand, market forces or the state itself are encouraging people not to smoke — or drive — and on the other hand, the state’s financial health depends on them doing both.

At least where the price of gasoline is concerned, Minnesotans will have plenty of incentive to cut back. T. Boone Pickens predicted this morning that a barrel of gasoline will be back close to $150 within a year.

And 3 cents a gallon will seem like small potatoes again.