The Edmond Sun

April 29, 2013

How a no vote solved gas tax problem

Rep. Jason Murphey
Special to The Sun

GUTHRIE — Frequent readers of these articles will recall the series of columns I have written about the significant progress the state is making in regards to paving roads and building bridges.

State policy makers are re-directing ever-increasing amounts of motor vehicle tax revenue away from the general fund and toward roads and bridges. The state is starting to adopt a user fee based system where money paid for access to roads is truly used for roads instead of elsewhere.

How did these positive changes come about?

Think back to the summer of 2005 when Oklahomans were asked to increase fuel taxes. We were told our state fuel taxes were some of the lowest, and tax increase advocates said this was the reason Oklahoma had such bad roads. They seemed to suggest that our only option for improving roads was to take more of our money and give it to government.

On the surface this appeared to be a convincing argument.

But they didn’t highlight the fact that the same government that would get the additional tax money had misdirected motor vehicle revenues away from the roads for years. Instead, they wanted to reward government with more of our money.

Of course, many of us knew the bad roads were attributable to the government’s failure to properly utilize the money we were already paying them through motor vehicle taxes.

Those who attempt to increase your taxes often try to frame a very narrow debate. They want to present the public with an either/or option. In this case, it was either increase taxes or watch Oklahoma’s roads and bridges continue to deteriorate.

Oklahomans knew better. They knew there was a third way and forced the issue by doing the right thing and voting no with a record-setting margin of 87 percent to 13 percent. This strong message forced Oklahoma’s elected officials to take immediate action, and ever since, more and more of the existing motor vehicle revenues are being used to pave roads and build bridges.

The most recent version of the state Department of Transportation’s Eight Year Improvement Plan actually declared that by the end of the plan, Oklahoma’s structurally deficient bridges will nearly be eliminated.

Had government gotten more of our money, policy leaders would not have been forced to do the right thing. I am certain the motor vehicle revenues would have continued to go to other places besides roads and bridges.

In this case, the voters saw through the tax raisers’ attempts to frame the either/or argument. Had the voters decided to increase taxes, they would have rewarded those who had neglected our roads and bridges. Not only would the taxpayer have lost, but ironically so would roads and bridges — because they are now funded with substantially more than would have been generated by the new tax.

The wise voter knows that many times politicians, professional bureaucrats and those who live on the tax dollar attempt to take more of our money by providing the voter with a limited set of information and options. Those tax advocates counted on citizens voting emotionally and without enough information.

The next time a politician tries to convince you to vote to raise our taxes, please remember this story.



REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at jason.murphey@okhouse.gov, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.