The campaign of President Barack Obama has fired back at GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney following the Republican’s calls for the firing of three Obama administration Cabinet officials — Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson — in charge of overseeing energy issues. When asked for a response to Romney’s call for the President to fire his “gas hike trio,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told ABC news:
“As a result of the president’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, domestic oil and gas production has increased each year and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 16-year low.”
“In Massachusetts, Gov. Romney raised the gas tax by 400 percent. Now Mitt Romney rolled out a tax plan that continues to charge taxpayers $4 billion a year to subsidize oil and gas companies making record profits and he opposed raising fuel economy standards, which will save consumers an average of $8,000 per vehicle.”
LaBolt then took to his Twitter, providing a link to an article on tax reform by Greg Mankiw, a Romney adviser Harvard economics professor, who was once the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President George W. Bush. In the article, published January 21, 2012, Mankiw advocated a tax on gasoline exceeding $2 a gallon.
LaBolt’s comment is misleading — Romney did not raise the 21-cent state gas tax at all, but did increase a 0.5 cent clean-up tax to 2.5 cents, and then diverted the money to the general budget, BuzzFeed explains:
Romney actually increased the price of gasoline directly himself. In 2003 Romney increased fees on drivers by two cents a gallon to pay for environmental clean ups of leaking underground gas station fuel tanks. The fee increased the clean-up tax on drivers by 400% and hit consumers directly at the pump. The fund, which was originally only half-a-cent, was created in 1992 to aid gas station owners with clean-ups. Two weeks after raising taxes on drivers, Romney eliminated the fund for gas station clean-ups entirely but kept the two cent increase in the tax gas. The money raised by Romney’s tax increase now goes directly into Commonwealth’s coffers for legislators to spend as they please.
The issue of gas taxes has been a proven vulnerabilty for Mitt Romney in the past. When running against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for the Republican nomination in 2008, Romney’s campaign took a bruising for the gas fee he imposed on the state of Massachusetts:
McCain campaign communications director Jill Hazelbaker responded to a Romney attack on McCain over energy issues by saying, “Mitt Romney has proven in this campaign that he will say anything to anyone at any time if he thinks it will help him politically. … As governor, Mitt Romney effectively raised gas taxes on every single motorist in Massachusetts.”
Governor Romney’s efforts to raise Massachusetts gas taxes — like his support for regulations on coal plants, the Northeast’s cap-and-trade initiative, and green energy — were progressive policies that helped improve the welfare of Massachusetts citizens. The eroding rate of gas taxes in this country has meant that more and more money flows from the 99 percent of drivers to the 1 percent involved with oil companies and Wall Street speculators. Meanwhile, the transportation infrastructure that people depend on is crumbling into disrepair. Burned by a previous attempt to restore the state gas tax from its eroding position, current Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) is refusing to restore the gas tax enough to preserve critical public transit services for his state.