A proposal in the New Mexico Legislature to raise the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon has been introduced this session. It is not likely to go very far as Gov. Martinez has indicated she won’t sign a tax hike, however, the proposal has picked up support from the Albuquerque Journal and Las Cruces Sun-News to name two papers. To its credit, the Journal does cite the unnecessary burden the Rail Runner’s financing has placed on the transportation budget. Far from being a helpful way to reduce traffic, the RailRunner is an unwise diversion of limited funds.
And, to be sure, there are road needs in New Mexico and even possible arguments for raising the gas tax. One argument is that since the rate is charged as a cents/gallon tax, inflation eats into the tax. Also, as cars become more fuel efficient or even electric, gas tax revenues decline. All of these are fair and could necessitate some changes in how roads are constructed and maintained.
However, before tapping into motorists’ pockets, wouldn’t it make more sense to put an end to unfair labor laws that unnecessarily increase the cost of public works projects as Roxanne Rivera-Wiest of the Associated Builders and Contractors of NM recently wrote? The law in question is New Mexico’s equivalent of the Davis-Bacon laws that increase prices by up to 20 percent. Of course, Davis-Bacon laws jack up the costs on ALL state projects, so New Mexicans could also benefit from 20% more schools and 20% more public buildings for the same price currently being paid. Sounds like a win-win to me, but the majority Party in the Legislature would prefer to bilk taxpayers out of more of their hard-earned money than pay their union friends a market wage (as opposed to an inflated one).