A state representative in Baton Rouge wants you and me and everyone we know to start paying more at the pump. A lot more. How much more? 5 cents? Nope. 10 cents? Nope. 15?! Getting warmer...

Which makes sense, because Louisiana already has the worst sales tax structure in the nation, which isn’t really all the surprising when you stop to consider just how much we’re taxed on every little thing in this state. I swear, sometimes I worry about sneezing too loudly one day and attracting the attention of some overzealous tax collector, eager to impose some kind of Audible Mucosal Expulsion tax on my nose.

Of course, if I go to the store to get something to help minimize my sneezing, I’ll just be taxed on every box of allergy medicine I take up to the pharmacy window that I’ll then be allowed to pay for only after I’ve signed in blood and provided 87 different DNA samples to the pharmacist in order to verify that I’m not buying enough generic Benadryl to make me the next Walter White or whatever.

Seriously, though. Louisiana taxes everything, but somehow, we’re still broke. The state government is operating with a huge deficit that’s only expected to get worse, and no one can agree on a solution to the problem.

Meanwhile, we’re giving more money to corporations than we’re getting back in taxes, while raising the sales tax on everything from the cigarettes you buy at a convenience store, to the homemade clay ashtrays you picked up at a flea market, thanks to the Craft Show Tax.

Now they want to raise the gas tax, because of course they do. The excuse reason? According to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, it’s because it will cost about $13 billion to take care of its backlog of highway projects.

Road Work Sign
Ingram Publishing/ThinkStock

Last year, Governor Edwards put together a special Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure Investment to investigate and provide solutions for the budget crisis facing our transportation infrastructure, and the best idea they came up with was raising taxes? Call me crazy, but it doesn't seem to me like it'd take a special task force of 18 people to come up with literally the first idea government ever has when faced with a problem, but there it is.

"We don't have enough money! What can we do?"

"I dunno. How about we just raise taxes again? That'll probably do it. I'm clocking out early today. Great work, everybody!"

To add insult to injury, the Powers That Be are even dangling the I-10 Bridge carrot to try and persuade us that paying more for gas is a good idea, even going so far as to say that the I-10 Bridge Project is “not going to happen” with current funding, according to Louisiana DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson.

Look, I know taxes are important. They’re necessary. We need them. But I can’t be alone in thinking that low gas prices should be the primary benefit to living in a state that’s capable of refining 3,273,020 barrels of oil per day. With the environmental impact that much refining brings, we should at least be able to fill our tanks with cheap gas on our way the nearest cancer hospital still open after the state slashed the healthcare budget by millions of dollars.

Kristian Bland
Kristian Bland

Right now, we’re paying 20 cents in state tax on every gallon of gas we buy. If we only increased it by 5 cents, that'd add a cool $1 to every four gallons we put in our tanks, but the current proposal from state Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) is asking for an increase of up to 17 cents per gallon.

Adding that to the current state tax of 20 cents nearly doubles what we're already paying, meaning every 2.7 gallons of gas we buy would cost us an extra $1, but why stop there? Why not bump the tax up to a full 50 cents a gallon? At least that would make the math easier to add up in our heads when we realize every two gallons of gas will cost us an extra dollar, which is kind of a lot - especially when a city like Lake Charles has seen the average per capita income actually go down by more than $1,000 over the past decade while the cost of living has skyrocketed.

Increase the tax enough, and we'll be able to nope ourselves right out of that next trip to the grocery store when we realize we wouldn't even be able to afford to buy a pack of instant ramen noodles after paying for the gas it'd take to get there. I mean, it's not like we're already being bled dry with things like outrageous rent or anything, right?

With a federal tax of 38.4 cents and a current state tax of 20 cents, tacking on an additional 17 cents would mean we'd be paying over 75 cents per gallon in taxes alone. What a time to be alive!

I vote no to increasing the gas tax, not that it matters. The only people consulted in the task force's latest regional meeting were legislators, parish officials, and community business leaders, because I guess directly asking the people how we'd feel about getting ripped off doesn't make for a very productive meeting. And if there's one certainty with government, it's that once they propose a tax increase, they've pretty much already decided it's going to happen.

So it's probably going to happen.

Maybe we should form a special task force of our own, as the residents of this great state affected by all the ridiculous policies our elected officials keep shoving down our throats.

We'll hold our meetings in the voting booth.

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