Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Vilsack on gas

Gas is expensive. The governor is worried about it. So, he’s busy sending letters to the DOJ to encourage the administration to look into price gouging. Hmm.

From the Mason City Globe Gazette

DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack asked federal leaders Monday to investigate high gasoline prices and to resist cutting assistance for low-income Iowans facing a jump in heating bills this winter.

Vilsack made his pleas as record oil prices continued driving up the cost of gasoline and heating fuels such as natural gas and propane. Hurricane Katrina’s impact on gulf coast refineries and drilling rigs threatened to push prices even higher.

The governor sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking the Justice Department to investigate whether illegal price gouging is inflating fuel prices in Iowa and elsewhere. …

… "I know a number of Iowans have expressed deep concern in questioning the cost of gasoline and whether or not this is a function of the market or whether there is some manipulation taking place in the market," Vilsack said.

"We need reassurance. And we believe the Justice Department can provide that reassurance," Vilsack said.

Al Goldberg, who supervises the energy section of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said it’s too early to tell whether Hurricane Katrina will have a lasting impact in fuel prices. Much depends on damage assessments in the storm’s wake.

If critical refineries were spared from the brunt of the storm, Goldberg said any price jump would be short- lived.

And, well, in the world of the well-coordinated Vilsack administration, the Governor’s head of transportation, Mark Wandro, is over in Sioux City talking about increasing the gasoline tax. Hello!

From the Sioux City Journal

DOT wants, but won't ask for, gas tax hike

The Iowa Department of Transportation has started laying the ground work for a future increase in the state fuel tax. …

… "We're not asking politicians for that right now," Wandro said during a visit to Sioux City Monday. "I don't want to put them in that position. Look at energy prices right now. We're not going to go in and propose additional funding. We're going to make a case that we need it, but recognize the timing couldn't be worse." …

… Last year, state taxes flowing into the road-building fund rose less than a half percent. The state's gas tax currently stands at 20.5 cents per gallon and hasn't been changed since the late 1980s.

To have the same buying power today, it would require a tax increase of 8 cents a gallon, Wandro said. That would generate an additional $150 million annually. ...

This odd bit of uncoordinated press coverage is completely emblematic of what is wrong with government and governing. Vilsack didn’t send that letter for any other purpose than to get a little attention -- Look at me, look at me; I am Iowa’s Governor and an important, serious Presidential Wannabe. All the while, Wandro is simply grinding away at his job trying to think up ways to increase revenue to keep the Associated General Contractors of Iowa happy.

The really sad thing about all this – we need to take the potential for a hike in Iowa’s gasoline tax much more seriously, than we take the Governor’s fleeting effort at getting some press out of hurricane Katrina to fuel his national ambitions.

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