Wednesday, March 13, 2013

O'Malley sees green light for gas tax (again)

Undaunted by last year's failure, MD Gov. Martin O'Malley is once again pushing for a hike in his state's gas tax as part of his transportation plan.

And Ruby Cramer reports that it's a calculated bet that bluntly raising taxes isn't the political suicide it once was.

It's the type of legislation an aspiring presidential candidate wouldn't have touched a few years ago — something even O'Malley alluded to last week, when he told The Baltimore Sun that there isn't "a revenue more unpopular than the gas tax."

With Obama's reelection — and his subsequent victory in Congress over a "fiscal cliff" deal to raise taxes on individuals who earn an income higher than $400,000 each year — we've entered a period of "Obamanomics," said Jason Stanford, a Democratic consultant and opposition researcher.

"It used to be you could never even talk about raising taxes — that would kill you," said Stanford. "Now we have even Boehner voting to raise taxes on the rich. Reaganomics is effectively dead. We're dealing with Obamanomics now."

All true, but Cramer makes an important point -- the gas tax hits everyone; not just the rich.

Obama's tax message in 2012 boiled down to this: extend tax cuts for individuals making less than $250K, and raise taxes on the rich (It turned out that plan was fairly popular, and was responsible for Obama's small but consistent lead over Romney on taxes).

That -- and not some blanket tax increase -- is what moved voters.

A 2012 Washington Post poll put the distinction in stark terms.

65% said they supported raising taxes on those making over $250K/year, while 88% opposed raising taxes on the middle class. That was the story in poll-after-poll, and the gas tax, disproportionately, affects those making less money.

So it looks like O'Malley took the wrong lesson from Obama's win, and is making a reach even in blue Maryland, where last year, the Democratic Senate President, Thomas V. Mike Miller, told The Baltimore Sun, "As long as the gas price is high, I don't see any appetite for a gas tax increase."

O'Malley seems to be O'Wrongy on this one.