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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hey Joe, get a Prius

The Globe tells us Joe Ciaramitaro of Gloucester is pissed off that he will have to pay 19-cents a gallon more in taxes on his wife's Lincoln Navigator (14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway).

Standing next to a vehicle that appears to be as tall as he is, the Gloucester resident lamented:
"Between feeding, housing, clothing, and schooling, all I need is another increase in my taxes," he said. "You just can't keep taxing people to death."
Hey Joe, get a Prius (45.5 mpg highway).

Republican stimulus bill opponents have taken to calling Democratic proposals "socialism" because of fears that government spending aimed to push the country out of recession is a left-wing plot.

But the belief that government should subsidize people is deeply ingrained in the GOP's now-discredited free lunch theory that we can have it all and no one has to pay for it.

Roads, bridges and oversize, gas-guzzling behemoths are apparently a right as inalienable as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Globe graphic on the right is an excellent breakdown of how Patrick's gas tax proposal will be spent. As a Toyota-driving, MBTA-riding Massachusetts resident it works for me. I will continue to walk as much as I can and take my Corolla (35 mpg highway) where I cannot.

The gas tax is the ultimate in user fees -- something no less a free market conservative like (at least last time we looked) Mitt Romney believes in. Drive less -- or something more fuel efficient -- and pay less. Economics 101.

Nor do I have a problem with what the Herald breathlessly announces is Patrick's proposal to index the tax to inflation. That will avoid the problem of massive hikes every 20 years or so. And weren't we talking about driving less when OPEC and the oil companies had gas over $4 a gallon anyway.

Sadly though, I must agree with UMass professor Paul Watanabe that the political timing for Patrick is not great -- something that actually earns him brownie points for political straight talk.
"Look, this is not where Deval Patrick wanted to be in the third year of his term. Assuredly, there will be a considerable amount of distress raised by his proposal but . . . I think there are plenty of people who recognize that in some ways the sky is falling and something has to be done about it."
Thankfully he's not proposing a tax on political straight talk. We'd go broke in short order. Just watch the Legislature as it debates this transportation overhaul.

But governor, file the actual blankety-blank bill. Pronto.

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Anonymous suddenstop said...

Gas tax: a user fee any conservative ought to like.

Absolutely. Add the gas tax; remove, say, the sales tax. Lower the income tax. Cut the property tax (someday, he'll get to that).

But an outright extra billion from the taxpayers. Thanks, no.

February 21, 2009 9:25 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

And how do we fund police, fire, trash pickup and the schools? Magic beans?

I'm open to cutting taxes if we want to cut what we get for them. I haven't heard of any real good alternatives though.

February 21, 2009 10:03 AM  
Blogger dan bosley said...

"gas tax is the ultimate user fee". Actually, not for residents of Berkshire County who have seen little in the way of road and bridge projects because we have had to feed the MBTA and the Big Dig. Not for residents in hilltowns and rural areas who rely on SUVs to get to work during the long winters and certainly through mud season.Now we are being asked to pay 19 cents more in order to see a return of 1.5 cents in regional road projects. Most of that will not come to the Berkshires.

February 21, 2009 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

Rep. Bosley--a year ago, the people of the Berkshires (and the rest of us) paid an extra $1.10 per gallon to oil companies, and that money didn't help our roads. This 19 cents will stay in Mass. and we can use it to help the roads out there.

It is a shame that the previous 4 governors ignored western Mass, but this reform package will help western Mass.

February 22, 2009 8:16 AM  
Blogger Ian McCarty said...

This post is hardly "liberal." Please tell us you're kidding with this "works for me" attitude - ripped straight from the ugliest pages of the conservative playbook. Would an internet tax work for you? How about a foreign automobile tax?

I am not questioning your opinion, only the methodology by which you have arrived there. No doubt, you are in a much better position to handle this proposed tax than is Mr. Ciaramitaro. You have access to the MBTA, and it sounds as though you live within walking distance of many of your regular destinations. I guess you would also advise people to "move closer to the city", "shorten their commutes", or "move near a rail station." Works for you, right?

One last thing - we already have a "user fee" to traverse the roads of our great Commonwealth. It's called the excise tax. Increase that, though, and we'd end up penalizing the wrong folks. Those expensive hybrids really hold their values. Although, as some one who drives a reasonably valued SUV and lives out in the 'burbs, that works for me.

February 22, 2009 1:44 PM  
Blogger Chris Rich said...

I'm all for a new tier of of 'moron taxes' to add to sin taxes. If you must encase yourself up in a fat footprint bloatmobile when all manner of less toxic options avail, pay through the nose.

You will get even more status as a high roller that way. Since when are Boston suburbs a form of terrain that wants jungle craft?

Saab once had a funny ad."You wouldn't use technical climbing gear to walk in Manhattan so why use an SUV to drive there?...Saab..the sensible choice."

Redistribute levy allocations where the problems originate rather than the current foolishness subsidy we now apply.

February 22, 2009 2:43 PM  
Blogger Fed Up Joe said...

No I won't by a Prius!!!!!
That's what's wrong with this country. Why would I buy a Prius?? I prefer to buy American, Ford specifically!!! A company that up to now has not needed any bailout assistance.

Now, I'll be branded a protectionist.

Oh well!

February 22, 2009 6:45 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Ian, apparently you missed the mpg data in the post. I pay the gasoline tax -- on a Corolla, not a Hummer or an Expedition or other hulking behemoth. And Mr. Ciaramitaro's wife'e vehicle has an MSRP of more than $40,000 so make mo assumptions about relative ability to pay.

And last I looked Toyota and Honda and Subaru, to name three have plants in the U.S.

And define Internet tax. Do we pay for the privilege os signing on? Yes. Do I pay a higher fee because I use broadband rather than dial-up? Yes. I'm not sitting here with my monthly statements but do I pay an overall tax and fee to my service provider? Yes.

If you are talking about taxing goods and service bought on the web -- not a bad idea but hard to enforce. I already pay a sales tax here.

The excise tax is a nasty little fee -- going only to ciies and towns who don't have other many other resources aside from the property tax. I'd happily ditch it if we cold reform the overall structure.

And Fed Up Joe -- as I mentioned before Toyotas are made in America these days.

The one legitimate argument here that I am hard pressed to argue against is that of Rep. Bosley.

February 23, 2009 4:56 AM  
Blogger Ian McCarty said...

Outraged Liberal,

- The examples of “foreign auto tax” and “internet tax” were merely inserted to point to a make believe system wherein you may not find yourself in such an unscathed, or even beneficial position. Taking me to task on these points seems a little nit-picky. I think it’s fair, though, to point out that a foreign auto tax would take domestic plants into account about as much as this gas tax takes into account the nation of our oil’s ultimate origin.

- I find it odd that you can so dismissively address the excise tax as "a nasty little fee" on the grounds that its benefits are not universally realized. Under Governor Patrick's gas tax plan, the benefits are certainly targeted: MBTA users and those who drive toll roads will be spared further cost increases, and everyone will foot that bill, regardless of their usage of those services. That's hardly a "user's fee."

- Mr. Ciaramitaro chooses to buy a $40,000 vehicle, and pays appropriate sales tax. He pays the appropriate excise tax for this vehicle, and - due to his "m.p.g. issues" - he, and other SUV drivers already pay a good amount of the existing gasoline tax. You, due to your aforementioned advantages, pay less of this tax. What's more, nearly a third of this newly generated tax revenue will be used to prevent fare hikes and service cuts on the MBTA, one of your main tools for avoiding this tax. This doesn't just work for you, this really works for you.

- I do agree that the state needs to take a hard look at the way it currently collects and redistributes taxes. I don’t think that a fair and equitable system of doing so will be the result of 6 million residents pushing for that which most benefits them personally.

- All of this leads back to my original point: “Works for me” is hardly a liberal point of view. “Works for us” might be a little closer to the mark – and that takes consensus, not condescension.

February 23, 2009 10:45 AM  

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