[This article includes an update at the end.]
All too often, politicians seek to hide the cost of government from the people by levying taxes at the wholesale level or disguised as “business” taxes. Rather than force government to be more honest, legislation filed by State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Spring Branch) would penalize businesses for not exposing government deception.

State and federal taxes on gasoline are levied at the wholesale level, not at the point of sale. So when you fill up the family vehicle, state and federal taxes are included in the price displayed on the pump by law.

Dwayne Bohac

Dwayne Bohac

Bohac’s legislation, HB991, would require everyone who sells gasoline in Texas to “display on each motor fuel pump at the retail location a notice of the current rates of the federal and state motor fuel taxes.”

His measure requires that the business owner display the state and federal tax rates “in a clear, conspicuous, and prominent manner” at every pump.

Failure on the part of a business to post such signage, or not display it in what an investigator might find to be a “prominent manner,” will result in a $500 fine.

So let’s rewind this. Bohac is not trying to fix the problem of hidden taxes. He isn’t having the state pay for the stickers.

Despite what might be nice intentions, this fails the good-government smell test on nearly every level.

Bohac is creating multiple new burdens on retailers (keeping track of the taxes paid at the wholesale level, creating a display device, keeping it maintained and visible at every pump) and then subjecting to a penalty. All regarding a taxing scheme levied by Bohac and his colleagues.

I’ll give Bohac credit for having good intentions. In execution, this is a bad bill putting on small businesses the burden of making visible what government has hidden.

UPDATE: Mr. Bohac tells me his legislation is being re-drafted so the state pays for the stickers. No word on whether or not businesses will be fined if the government sticker falls off…

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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