Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ehrlich and the Gas Crisis

from The League: Reassembled

The Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland has the third highest average gas price in the nation at $3.23 per gallon according to AAA Mid-Atlantic - Washington D.C. is first with $3.34 and New York is second with $3.25. Many government officials have called for a temporary reduction or suspension of Maryland's 23.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax, claiming that the current budget surplus gives the state enough budgetary room for the tax relief.

Gov. Ehrlich does not concur. It is not entirely clear why Ehrlich is against the measure. The Sun reports that Ehrlich has shown skepticism about the issue since gas taxes are used to secure state transportation bonds. But Ehrlich has also been hesitant because the general assembly would have to hold a special session as it is not scheduled to reconvene until January. But these objections seem minimal at best. Some of the budget surplus could be earmarked to secure transportation bonds - indeed, this seems like a better usage of our tax dollars than the very small property tax break that Ehrlich has proposed; it would benefit all Marylanders, not just the wealthy land owners.

The question of holding a special session of the General Assembly has not troubled Ehrlich in the past. The last time the General Assembly had a special session was when Ehrlich declared that there was a crisis in medical malpractice claims, only to eventually veto the legislation that he called a special session for. Perhaps the political pressures have become so great the Ehrlich fears that once again the legislation will be something he must veto, showing that he puts his own political ideology above the demands of Marylanders for improvement.

The Sun also reports that the Gov. has discussed lifting highway weight restrictions to help suppliers get to gas stations more efficiently. But this plan will not make very much of a different on pump prices. The amount of efficiency gained is minimal at best. (Another possible measure to lower gas prices is to put limits on the wholesale prices.)

Which leads us to the final puzzlement of the week: What the hell is Ehrlich thinking? He has admitted to not understanding why the prices are being pushed artificially high even though supply is still strong. The obvious answers sits right in front him: despite Ehrlich's overwhelming confidence in bare market forces and traditional laisez faire government, there comes a time (specifically crisis time) where the market is not governed by supernatural forces that keep it inline with the consumers' best interests. During these periods we have to rely on our government to step in and quell the out of control market before it spins itself beyond repair.

from The League: Reassembled with revisions

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