The First Gasoline Tax: Less Than Romantic (Oregon: 1919) – Master Resource

Did you ever wonder how the gas tax came about? I did occasionally but never enough to study it and find out. Not surprisingly it turn out to be a sordid story of self-interest and government cronyism. From Masterresource.

“I was asked to draw a state highway map that would win the votes of a majority of the members by placing roads [so] they could take them home with them as pork wrested from Portland…. This map ran in front of the farm homes of enough legislators that . . . 37 representatives joined in introduction of the bill…. It took all day . . . to get the map changed so a majority of the Senate would vote for the bill…. My poor map was almost unrecognizable, but it served its purpose.”

– C. C. Chapman, “father of the gasoline tax,” on Oregon’s passage of motor-vehicle fee in 1917, which became a gasoline levy two years later.

Was Oregon’s tax the work of a far-sighted reformer with the special interests keeping a safe distance in the interests of fair and balanced government? Or was it the result of a confluence of private and public interests creating a supply of and a demand for special government favor?

Unlike the textbook view, it was the latter. And “Big Oil” was involved in Oregon’s historic public-finance moment. The major oil companies calculated that the total revenue from gasoline sales would rise more with tax-financed road construction than if gasoline was cheaper by the amount of the tax and fewer (public) roads were constructed.

Nothing very novel or even unusual there, really. that’s how political sausage is made And in some ways, the fact that the government built roads, in a political environment is likely better than if they’d turned the map over to ‘experts’. And even with my libertarian tendencies, it’s hard for me to see how local roads at least would be overly rational as private property. So maybe it’s not the worst thing ever, really. federal highways and Interstates are likely a different sort of animal but that’s another discussion.

Oregon’s beginning led to road taxes in all 48 states within a decade to fund road construction. But, gas-tax revenue started to be diverted to other uses to the chagrin of the oil majors, now organized as the American Petroleum Institute (API). “Phantom roads” became an issue.

Government intervention giveth and taketh away. Expect the same for any ‘starter’ carbon tax.

That does bother me. We approved of the gas tax to build and maintain road, not for any other purpose (seems like the usual suspect these days is so-called: light rail). Which if there was enough demand for it wouldn’t need government subsidies. But it does, and where it has been built, (like the interurbans before it) it has failed.

The First Gasoline Tax: Less Than Romantic (Oregon: 1919) – Master Resource.

There’s quite a lot more at the sourcelink but I see little point in reproducing it. You should rhe link, include some from Heritage. cronyism is always going to exist, the trick is to keep it at a low (and local) level so it doesn’t do too much more damage than the good it can do.

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About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

5 Responses to The First Gasoline Tax: Less Than Romantic (Oregon: 1919) – Master Resource

  1. the unit says:

    Been said a long time and by many…this from Wiki…
    ‘The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), October 21, 1891; Issue 9223 “Sir Charles Dilke and the Bishops” “A mass meeting of the slate quarry-men of Festiniog Ffestiniog, Wales] was held Wednesday night [Oct. 14] to protest against certain dismissals from one of the quarries….” He [Dilke] observed that the speeches of the Bishops on the disestablishment question reminded him that there were three degrees of untruth–a fib, a lie, and statistics (Laughter)”
    We got all that now. 🙂

    Like

    • NEO says:

      Bingo, Indeed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    OK. Now I’m back to trying to get adjusted to my new and additional high blood pressure medicine…James Carvedilol, supposed to be a Democrat blocker, er Beta blocker that is. 20 mg. twice a day. May have to take it with a little Mary Maalox. 🙂
    https://www.google.com/search?q=picture+of+james+carville&biw=1093&bih=479&tbm=isch&imgil=zqSG1WeqlOq6MM%253A%253BVoa6g-Mm_MDy4M%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwizbangblog.com%25252F2011%25252F12%25252F04%25252Fchanneling-james-carville%25252F&source=iu&pf=m&fir=zqSG1WeqlOq6MM%253A%252CVoa6g-Mm_MDy4M%252C_&usg=__QiBGoKFGFJX_xZWi7fc3gPBEk68%3D&dpr=1.25&ved=0CDkQyjc&ei=hUwLVc-dDoenNoWZg8gG#imgrc=zqSG1WeqlOq6MM%253A%3BVoa6g-Mm_MDy4M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwizbangblog.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2011%252F12%252Fjames-carville.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwizbangblog.com%252F2011%252F12%252F04%252Fchanneling-james-carville%252F%3B833%3B1091

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Probably will, at that. speaking of odd couples. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: My Article Read (3-19-2015) (3-20-2015) | My Daily Musing

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