Tom Humphrey’s column this weekend is akin to Martin Luther burning the papal Bull n defiance of corrupt church authority. But the “Bull” Humphrey exposed is not a religious doctrine, but the first half of a word that accurately describes the proponents who want to raise the gas tax — especially the Governor.
The B.S. began with the state’s $500 million dollar revenue surplus. The governor and some legislative leaders began to grab at the “found” taxpayer moola like a stressed out mother at a Starbucks drive-through reaching for her double latte. Pork barrel projects from museums to agricultural centers sprang up faster than weeds in a cow pasture.
But Humphrey laid out in clear language that the governor’s claims of transportation funding and a lack of revenue to solve the problem is complete B.S.
“One part of the governor’s problem is what might be called inconsistent messaging by public relations professionals. For years now – up to and including this summer – the governor has been declaring things are great with the Tennessee budget.
“Insofar as overall messaging goes, this is all utterly at odds with saying the state needs more tax money.”
RTP provides a classic example: TDOT said it was going to be about $20 million short this year on its budget. By amazing coincidence, that is roughly the same amount as the permanent annual $20 million fuel tax break the state is giving FedEx CEO Fred Smith. By amazing coincidence, Fred sits on the board of directors for Pilot Oil. By yet another amazing coincidence, Pilot will be the #1 collector of any new gas tax (which will be included in the price at the pump).
This is a political daisy chain, with only the taxpayers getting screwed.
The FedEx tax break alone could fund this year’s alleged transportation short-fall in perpetuity. But let’s not stop there. The $120 million history museum would fund the shortfall for six years. The $500 million surplus could satisfy half of TDOT’s claim that it has $1 billion in backlogged transportation projects. Why, that amount of money could fund 10,869 new state logos, with change left over.
With all due respect to Humphrey, this not a failure of “inconsistent communication” by the governor and his allies. It’s lying, pure and simple. But despite Humphrey’s more genteel approach to such prevarications, he should be roundly praised for his courage in pointing out the Emperor is buck-naked sitting on his high horse.
Thanks, Dean. You’ll make a fine journalist someday.