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Norquist Gives Blessing to Extending the Gas Tax

Looks like we may dodge a bullet on the potential hostage situation over the extension of the gas tax. Grover Norquist, chief anti-tax shit disturber, says he won’t oppose the extension of the gas tax. This doesn’t mean the horde of Tea Party Republicans in the House won’t. But Norquist supported the final debt limit deal and House Republicans supported it by well over 2-to-1. What he said was that extending the gas tax with no changes wouldn’t violate his Americans for Tax Reform pledge. And that does have resonance in the GOP.

This is not to say that Norquist doesn’t have malign interests at heart for the gas tax. Here’s his plan:

“We’re interested in the broader issue that states should keep their own fuel taxes. We don’t want it run through Washington,” Norquist said in a telephone interview. “Why should Connecticut pay for what’s going on in Wyoming and Wyoming pay for the New York City subway system?”

“We want to show governors how much they can keep of their own taxes,” he said. “We want them to understand that this reform can happen in their term.”

Eliminating the federal gas tax will take between two to five years, he said. Norquist hopes to drum up support for two bills that allow states to opt out of the Highway Trust Fund.
“Prying Washington’s hands off the money will take some time,” he said.

Lots of people live in one state and work in another. My dad did it for 15 years. He lived in Pennsylvania but relied on transit and roads in New Jersey and New York. Speaking more broadly, we all benefit from the commercial use of interstate highways. Not everything Wyoming consumes is grown or produced in Wyoming; in fact, almost nothing is. So they need roads in other states to get the goods they use on a daily basis to market.

This is so stupidly elementary that I’m getting exasperated just explaining it. But the fact is that we all benefit – even oil companies benefit! – from the increased commercial production and distribution that comes with federal gas taxes which go to improving infrastructure. Norquist’s folkspun wisdom is absurd. And so is a bill to allow states to opt out of the Highway Trust Fund.

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David Dayen

David Dayen