Tag Archives: gas taxes

Yay Deal.

So Abel’s tears found a floor, and the deal is now done.  It’s a terrible, terrible deal.  Let’s first focus on what Maldonado got, which is less than meets the eye.

• He got his open primary legislation on the ballot, but not until June 2010.  Arnold was interested in it, and so it was likely to get on that ballot anyway.  This won’t help Maldo in 2010, which was probably a condition of the deal.  Considering that it affects Congressional races as well as legislative ones, I expect Nancy Pelosi to go all in trying to defeat and I don’t expect it to pass.  Open primaries have lost on the ballot in the past.

• The constitutional amendment banning legislative pay increases during deficit years passed; the amendment cutting all legislative pay during a late budget failed.

• The 12-cent gas tax increase was cut, replaced with a slight increase to the state income tax, federal stimulus money (which was always going to fill in because it was more than budgeted for) and $600 million in unspecified line-item vetoes from the Governor, which  are going to be ugly.  Let’s just say that the huge corporate tax cut is not the first place Arnold’s going to look.

Now, that’s what Maldonado got.  Among the other goodies in this budget, besides the corporate tax cuts and the privatization of state highway projects and the rest, are:

• A $10,000 tax credit for homebuyers, but only if they buy new construction.  So a “developer bailout” when there is all kinds of existing inventory sitting on the market and lowering property values inside communities.  And now there’s an incentive for them to stay there.  Great.

• Large commercial vehicles are exempt from the increase in vehicle license fees, because… gee, I have no idea.  This is perverse, the opposite of what we should be taxing, which are inefficient vehicles.

• Rental car companies can pass VLF increases on to customers, which they probably would have done anyway, but this makes it even easier.

• One provision allows for the delay of retrofitting of heavy diesel equipment, which will maintain poor air pollution in at-risk communities, and let’s face it, kill people.  Don’t believe me, take it from the Chairman of the Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols: “There are people who will die because of this delay.”

Dan Weintraub is right – this is a budget the GOP can be proud of, because it’s a profoundly conservative budget.  Because they hold a conservative veto over it.  And they get the best of both worlds – they don’t have to vote for the budget en masse so they don’t have to own it.  In short, the hijacking worked.  And that’s a function of process, not personality.

As Jean Ross says, “If this year’s budget negotiations don’t increase public support for reducing the vote requirement for approval of a budget and tax increases, it is not clear what will.”

…there are two initiatives that have entered circulation that would repeal 2/3 for budget and taxes, and replace it with an arbitrary 55%.  It should be majority rule.  But it’s about to gather signatures.  Budgets and bad policies can eventually be changed if the process is changed.

Congestion Pricing and San Francisco

When I lived in San Francisco, though I was out in the Richmond I spent a couple years without a car using public transit without much of a problem.  Between BART, Muni, rideshare on the Bay Bridge and the ferries there are plenty of opportunities to get around throughout the city.  It can be a bit of an ordeal but it is well within the realm of possibility.  That hasn’t stopped Bay Area commuters from expressing anger about a proposed congestion pricing scheme.

America’s second most congested city could become the first to institute so-called congestion pricing to try to reduce downtown traffic, improve the environment and raise money for further transit fixes. A similar effort failed earlier this year in New York City […]

The online reaction was fast and furious.

“Why should I have to pay to drive on public streets?” asked one reader. “Driving has gone the way of smoking,” wrote another, adding that “it is easy and right to pick on drivers.”

Congestion pricing, said a third, “would be a regressive tax on those who don’t have good public transit options…”

People pay lip service to wanting to reduce their carbon footprint, and then bristle at tangible steps toward it.  I hate to quote Tom Friedman here, but he’s right – re-engineering America into a post-carbon future without a specific price signal like congestion pricing or a carbon tax is going to be impossible.  There are plenty of different ways to go about this.  California is experimenting with raising the gas tax as part of the work-around budget.  Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is mulling over a mileage tax.  Congestion pricing has worked in London, and toll roads as a quicker option are present across the country.  The point is, as Friedman says:

The two most important rules about energy innovation are: 1) Price matters – when prices go up people change their habits. 2) You need a systemic approach. It makes no sense for Congress to pump $13.4 billion into bailing out Detroit – and demand that the auto companies use this cash to make more fuel-efficient cars – and then do nothing to shape consumer behavior with a gas tax so more Americans will want to buy those cars. As long as gas is cheap, people will go out and buy used S.U.V.’s and Hummers.

There has to be a system that permanently changes consumer demand, which would permanently change what Detroit makes, which would attract more investment in battery technology to make electric cars, which would hugely help the expansion of the wind and solar industries – where the biggest drawback is the lack of batteries to store electrons when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. A higher gas tax would drive all these systemic benefits.

The congestion pricing proposal in San Francisco has another appeal – reducing traffic and allowing people to increase their productivity simply by getting to where they need to go faster.  That includes the street-based public transit options as well.  Ultimately, if the congestion pricing money is used smartly, to enhance mass transit options, it makes complete sense to try it.

Loretta Sanchez And The Defense Machine Hustle

As usual, it would be better to quote this Digby post verbatim, but let me just give you the relevant section from the article in question:

(Loretta) Sanchez, Orange County’s only Democratic member of Congress, voted in 2002 against giving President Bush authorization to invade Iraq. More recently she voted to begin pulling troops out within 90 days.

Tuesday night Sanchez said she could not support the protesters (who want to cut funding for the war) because the $145 billion in Iraq war funding was in the same bill that would provide money to build the C-17 aircraft in California.

“I never voted for this war,” she said. But “I’m not going to vote against $2.1 billion for C-17 production, which is in California. That is just not going to happen.”

Sanchez has been consistently against the war, and she cannot be fully blamed for protecting her constituents.  But she’s constrained by the fact that a major military contractor in her district has a gun to her head.  Particularly in California, but all over the country really, the massing of the war machine has a definite impact on policy.  They put their factories in all these different districts, so that shuttering an obsolete weapons system will be met with enormous resistance.  This ensures that you can never decrease military spending or even keep it the same.  And eventually, all these systems have to be justified.  Through war.

This is approximately why the nightly news has all of these ads for Lockheed Martin and Boeing on them.  I can’t buy a 757, but Boeing can keep that news network in line by threatening to drop their ads if they stray from the party line.

Here’s Digby:

It’s just another way that big money distorts our politics. Sanchez’s statement makes it quite clear that the “power of the purse” is not about stopping anything. It’s about funding all kinds of things that have been set up over many years to keep politicians like Sanchez in line. She really does have to answer to her constituents — many of whom make their living off the military industrial complex dime. You can’t blame her.

I don’t even think public financing will stop this.  You’re talking about thousands of constituents’ jobs.  And California embodies this problem as much as any state in the union.  It’s something we really have to think about.  How do we, after 60 years of massive military buildup, put this genie back in the bottle?

(This isn’t limited to defense, by the way, John Dingell’s attempt to upend CAFE standard legislation preferred by the Speaker comes from him protecting his constituents, just as resistance to gas taxes comes from legislators protecting theirs.)