Efforts are once again under way in Santa Fe to raise the gas tax. It is not clear at this time exactly what the proposal will look like, but Speaker Brian Egolf assures us that a proposal to raise New Mexico’s gas tax from 17 cents/gallon to 27 cents (a 59 percent rate increase) will be put forth soon.
The Rio Grande Foundation has long opposed raising taxes, including the gas tax. And, yes, we are well aware that the tax has not been increased since 1993. But just because a tax hasn’t been increased in a long-time doesn’t mean it needs to be raised. For starters, New Mexico has heavy overall tax burdens already.
With a $1 billion surplus generated by oil and gas (and the most dire infrastructure needs in the oil-producing Southeast part of the State) it would seem like at least a part of the surplus could be used to address those needs as a starting point.
Of course, as we have pointed out in the past, New Mexico could get more infrastructure by eliminating the prevailing wage and ending wasteful projects like the New Mexico Rail Runner Express and Albuquerque Rapid Transit.
Furthermore, money from the excise tax on motor-vehicle sales could be used on roads and highways. Currently, the general fund gobbles up the vast majority of the levy’s revenue.
Finally, more gas tax revenue could be generated by ensuring that gas taxes are collected on Indian Pueblos and perhaps some kind of use fee could be collected on electric vehicles.
There is no need to raise taxes of any kind when the State is running a $1 billion surplus. That is especially true when there are so many simple ways to cut road building costs and ensure that money flows into roads from existing sources.