Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's NOT a user fee, it's a gas tax. And other tidbits

Are we cutting our way to wealthy consumers living in filthy communities?

I'm clearing out the inbox after several days out of the office. Here's some of what I've found:

Cutting our way to filth:
Lanny Reavis of Gastonia sent along a quote from John W. Gardner, in response to my op-ed from last Thursday, "A bright city future dimmed by cuts." Gardner, the founder of Common Cause, was secretary of health, education and welfare under President Lyndon Johnson. It's from Gardner's "The Recovery of Confidence" (1970):

"Tax reduction has an almost irresistible appeal to the politician, and it is no doubt also gratifying to the citizen. It means more dollars in his pocket, dollars that he can spend if inflation doesn't consume them first. But dollars in his pocket won't buy him clean streets or an adequate police force or good schools or clear air and water. Handing money back to the private sector in tax cuts and starving the public sector is a formula for producing richer and richer consumers in filthier and filthier communities. If we stick to that formula we shall end up in affluent misery."

Of course, to be balanced I must also report another email, either from Don Caudle (sorry, he didn't include where he lives) or from someone using his email: "Just what part of 'there is no money' do you liberals not understand...."

Gas tax = user fee? Think again:
Friend and fellow writer Alex Marshall sent a link to his recent piece in Governing magazine, in which he argues that the gas tax is NOT a user fee. And, he responds to a rail critic, Kenneth Orski, who wrote: “Pres. Eisenhower’s ambitious plan for the interstate highway system was placed on a sound fiscal basis by being backed by a user fee (a.k.a. the gas tax).” But high-speed rail, Orski said, “burdens the states with continued operating subsidies.”

Er, no, says Marshall. He writes, "President Eisenhower put the interstate highway system on a sound fiscal basis by burdening states with a continued operating subsidy for it in the form of the gas tax."

That Clock Tower of Babel:
Joe Mattiacci of Charlotte sent this query to the Observer Forum. He titled it, "Clock Tower of Babel":

"The first question one might ask is why do we need a huge clock tower on the new greenway at Kings Drive and Morehead anyway? Everybody in Charlotte seems to have their face in some sort of electronic device much of the day where the time is readily available.

"The second question would be why do we have a clock that hasn't kept
the correct time since it was erected? Who is responsible for this
episode of another public waste of money?"

The answer: You may not like it, or think it was necessary, but the clock was bought with private, not public money. The Rotary Club of Charlotte raised the money. Gwen Cook, a planner with the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department, explains: "The clockworks were provided by the Verdin Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, and paid for by the Charlotte Rotary Club, a gracious gift to the new greenway. Verdin has been in business for over a century."

She said the electrical problem with the clockworks began with an electrical storm a few weeks ago. They're working with the vendor to diagnose the exact problem, in order to fix it. The repair costs aren't on the taxpayers' dime.

And for those curious about why the clock tower looks as it does – I've heard some grousing by designer-types about the stonework, balustrades and urns – the designer was LandDesign, which designed that whole section of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

Ride with (and lobby?) your mayor: Friday you can bike with Hizzoner and whichever other local celebs/pols decide to come along.
Arrive at 7:30 a.m. (no need to don spandex though you may if you wish) to ride from the lot behind the Dowd YMCA, 400 E. Morehead St., to a free breakfast at the plaza next to Two Wachovia Center uptown. It's all part of BIKE!Charlotte activities from April 29-May 15. For more information: Ken Tippette, ktippette@ci.charlotte.nc.us or 704-336-2278, or Neal Boyd nealboyd@charlottesportscycling.com or 704-503-0138.


Mary Newsom said...

To whoever just tried to post a comment - submit it again without the reference to farmanimal excrement and it'll have a better shot at being posted. Your point was fine. It was the word with the * for one letter.
Acceptable words that make the same point: Bunkum. Hokum. Malarkey. Baloney. Drivel. Etc.

consultant said...


Here's a suggestion for rules for those of us who post here:

If you are reacting (responding) to a comment posted on the blog, use the following key.

*If you agree with the comment, refer to it with 1 star-*

*If you think the comment has holes in it but it doesn't yank your chain, refer to it with 2 stars-**

*If the comment was insanely stupid, completely devoid of humanity, refer to the commenter or comment as a 3 star.

As in, that was a * (1 star) comment, or, that was definitely a *** (3 star) comment.

Anonymous said...

OF course it's a user fee: it is a fee for roadway use, tied to amount of usage. IT certainly is not a gas tax, since it is not charged on all gasoline or only gasoline, but rather on all road use fuels, and ONLY on road use fuels. Large users of non-road use fuel have it delivered tax free. Smaller users must apply to the state and fed for a rebate of the tax, but either way, it is explicitly a tax for the use of ROADS, and does not apply to gasoline (or other fuels) used for other purposes.

The other, almost as obvious, indicator is that as gas mileage has increased, the scheme by which the tax related to miles driven has been corrupted, and as a result both state and federal governments are now looking at imposing a direct mileage tax to make up for the change.

A tax that is levied only on one class of persons, based on a single particular behavior is, by definition, a user fee. That is exactly the character of the gasoline tax.