Motorists are paying for pork at the gas pump |

Motorists are paying for pork at the gas pump

Tahoe Daily Tribune Staff Reports

Just as winter is followed by spring, a rise in gas prices inevitably leads to a call by Congress for investigations into the oil industry.

Where have all those investigations gotten us so far? Nowhere.

Let’s save everybody some time with a quick explanation of the reason gas prices are up: Supply is tight right now and demand is rising as the global economy recovers. And taxes amount to roughly a third of the price you pay at the pump.

If there’s one thing we really want our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., to do, it’s to hold the line on gas taxes. That means holding the line on spending in the six-year highway authorization bill making its way through Congress.

President Bush proposed $256 billion in his budget, a healthy increase over the previous six-year plan. It could be funded without raising the federal gas tax.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, proposed $375 million – and a nickel rise in the gas tax. Fortunately, his bill has been whittled to $275 billion, but the Senate approved a version calling for $318 billion in expenditures.

The highway bill is one of those places where congressmen like to stick their pet projects, and this one is no exception. It contains some 2,800 “earmarks,” which is Washington-speak for pork-barrel politics. In other words, while the nation’s highways need plenty of work, there’s fat to be trimmed from the bill.

Presidential candidate John Kerry’s vow to pressure OPEC countries to increase their oil output was little more than campaign rhetoric.

So was his criticism of Bush for trying to build up oil reserves, which is a sound long-term strategy. Far more serious is Kerry’s support for increases in the federal gas tax.

Until the United States opens large fields to exploration such as the Alaska preserves, which it is not willing to do, OPEC will be able to set its price. Until Americans regain their fuel-efficiency consciousness, they’ll pay the going price at the pump.

What we don’t need is any more tax – or politicians who think that’s the solution.

– The Nevada Appeal editorial board

Legislature working to hurt businesses

I have nothing new to report this week on workers’ compensation.Yes, negotiations are still taking place, but what that portends depends on who is talking at any given moment.

But we don’t need to point to legislative inaction on workers’ compensation. We can instead point to action the Legislature wants to take that will further make it difficult to run a business here in California.

As an example, take AB 2932 (Lieber, D-San Jose), which would set the minimum wage at $7.25 as of Jan. 1, 2005, and $7.75 as of Jan. 1, 2006. This bill would make California home of the highest minimum wage in the country and would therefore put additional pressure on our already struggling economy. Wages should be just. But this is not just because it freezes out entry-level workers, the very ones it is intended to benefit.

Thus, this measure – like many offered by the left – is well intentioned, but ultimately counterproductive.

Then there is SB 74 (Torlaksen, D-Walnut Creek), which would restrict the sale of vending machine-dispensed soft drinks in state owned buildings. It would mandate 50 percent offerings of water, sport drinks, and fruit juices (no less than 50 percent concentrate with no added sweeteners). What about the market helping companies decide what to offer? A year ago, vending machines only offered junk food. Now they have beef jerky, peanuts, trail mix, and other relatively low carb alternatives. The market did this, not legislation.

Finally, AB 83 (Corbett, D-San Leandro), which would require bottled water companies put disclaimers and label all ingredients on bottled water. It’s H20, for goodness sake.

I could give a dozen other examples, but the point is that where business is concerned, it is business as usual with this Legislature.

– Assemblyman Tim Leslie District 4, which includes Roseville, Rocklin, South Lake Tahoe, Auburn, Lincoln, Markleeville, Georgetown and Placerville.

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