Archived Story

More pain at the pump

Published 11:05am Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Before I get started on this week’s column, I am required by my commitment to the Miami Dolphins football organization to give a shout-out to my team.

While it wasn’t the best year for my ‘Fins, it ended on a high note Sunday afternoon in Miami. There, not only did we conclude the 2011-12 season with a win, we did it over our hated rivals – the New York Jets.

Thanks to three interceptions thrown by New York’s Mark Sanchez and our 96-yard, 21-play TD drive in the second half, the ‘Fins stood tall on this day with a 19-17 win. The victory was even sweeter in the fact that it knocked the Jets out of playoff contention.

One more thing while on the subject of football – I need to brag on my first-ever Fantasy Football championship. After years of trying, my team – Hunter’s Catfishes – knocked off the Greenville Vipers, owned by Conway native Buddy Duke – in last week’s championship.

Now for the thing that seems to be on the minds of nearly everyone – more pain at the pump.

North Carolina motorists rang in the New Year on a sour note – higher gas prices thanks to an increase on the amount of tax we pay per gallon of gas.

We can thank our state senators for that hike. Their counterparts over in the State House agreed back in November to cap our gas tax at 35 cents per gallon. However, an earlier bill was on the floor to increase the tax by 3.9 cents per gallon and when the Senate adjourned without taking up the matter, that bill became law effective Jan. 1.

The increase comes at a time when gas prices were falling at the pump. Earlier this year we were paying nearly $3.90 per gallon. As of this past Saturday the average price at the pump statewide was $3.25 per gallon. That shot up six cents by Sunday….the new 4-cent tax plus another 2 cents on the price charged by most stations.

All totaled, North Carolina’s gas tax now stands at an all-time high of 38.9 cents a gallon. Add to that a one-quarter-cent inspection fee on each gallon and the federal tax of 18.4 cents, and we pay 58.55 cents in tax per each gallon of gas we purchase. That’s the fifth highest in the nation as North Carolina trails only Connecticut, California, New York and Hawaii in the amount of taxes and fees paid per gallon.

Regionally, we lead the entire southeastern U.S. in the amount of state gas taxes. Alphabetically, the state gas tax (per gallon) in the South are Alabama (18 cents), Florida (14.5 cents), Georgia (7.5 cents plus a 4 percent sales tax per gallon), Mississippi (18 cents), South Carolina (16 cents), Tennessee (20 cents plus a special 1 percent petroleum sales tax per gallon) and Virginia (17.5 cents, a price that hasn’t changed since the 1980’s).

While none of us should be thrilled with paying nearly 60 cents in taxes/fees per gallon here in the Tar Heel state, we need to understand that money is used for road and bridge improvements as well as funding for general maintenance of highways.

We may complain that the roads in our little corner of the state are often overlooked, and we may have a legitimate case to stand on, but we all should know that the big metro areas in North Carolina are going to receive the lion’s share of the highway improvement funds.

I guess the trade-off here locally is we don’t have to worry about traffic gridlock during the morning and evening rush hours.

 

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

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