Thursday, May 02, 2013

Taxing the Good Guys

That master of irony, Oscar Wilde, got off many good lines during his creative writing career. Perhaps best known is “No good deed goes unpunished.”

We are about to see good deeds by many Michiganders punished for no good reason if a bill now before the state legislature becomes law. The bill would raise registration fees for owners of hybrid and electric vehicles.

How crazy can our local law makers get? Apparently, some would ignore 40 years of national policy intended to replace gas-guzzling vehicles with more efficient models. The original idea was to reduce or eliminate our dependence on imported oil. A more important reason that has come into sharper focus
Less Woulld Be Better
recently is to reduce excessive consumption of fuels whose use contributes to air pollution and climate change.

Going to hybrid or electric vehicles has a big impact. Our family car gets relatively good gas mileage. However, we could do much better. I've done the math. If we replaced our aging sedan with a comparable Toyota Prius or Ford C-Max, we would double our gas mileage. 

Making that significant contribution to environmental quality would cost us about $5,000, the difference between the hybrid price and a gasoline-only auto with comparable features. People who own hybrids were willing to back their beliefs about environmental quality with cash, although they probably could recoup the investment with savings at the pump over the life of the vehicle.

I know several Prius owners (the C-Max wasn't sold in the U.S. until this year.) None bought their cars to save money. Every one of them made the purchase to help enhance the environment. Punishing them with higher taxes would be idiotic. 

A much better idea is to simply raise the tax on gasoline to get the increased road maintenance money we need. That would create a bigger incentive for millions of us to reduce our carbon footprints by “trading up” to one of the growing number of fuel-efficient vehicles on the market today. It also would reduce at least some unnecessary driving, and that would help, too.


CathyS said...

In 1970, I went to a electric car factory. It boggled my mind why so little has been done for so long. Until it was explained to me the importance of the gasoline tax for government coffers. There is absolutely no incentive for the government to encourage drivers to conserve. So we don't. And now, we'll penalize those that do. Too sad.

Jhawk 23 said...

We've just been through that in Virginia. It's ridiculous, but certain types of politicians will do almost any kind of wacky scheme to avoid the dreaded charge that "they raised taxes."

In Virginia, they not only raised the fees on hybrids, but DID AWAY with the tax on gasoline entirely, completely obliterating all incentive for anyone to conserve gasoline, while permitting those who drive less-thirsty vehicles the privilege of subsidizing those who drive gas-guzzling tanks.

It's puzzling, to say the least.

Tom Sightings said...

I agree, it's ridiculous. Gas should cost around $5 or $6 or even $7 a gallon to reflect all its true costs and incentivize people to be more responsible. said...

I agree with Tom. However, the tax bill should be shared proportionally. The problem with gas taxes is that they penalize those who earn their living in vehicles, like my SIL who owns trucks associated with his roofing concern. Dianne

PS what do you think of the road to nowwhere in AK that is slated to cross a wilderness area? Why isn't anyone in the lower 48 complaining? (Washington Post 5/2)

PiedType said...

As we used to say, that's "bass ackwards." Either raise fees for all vehicles or raise fees only on gasoline-powered vehicles. I'd favor that over a gas tax, which would place more of a burden on those whose jobs require more driving. The last thing you do is penalize the hybrids -- they aren't the problem, they're the solution!

Dick Klade said...

Dianne . . . At least until I closed my business about five years ago, small business owners got a generous tax credit for miles driven by all vehicles used for business purposes. The credits were adjusted every year (usually upward). If the situation hasn't changed, increasing gasoline taxes should have little or no effect on small business owners.

I'm not up on Alaskan developments, but if current "road to nowhere" plans are anything like similar ideas pursued for many years there such public works are a waste of money as well as unnecessary threats to the environment.

Bruce Snook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Snook said...

Let me try this again after finding two typing errors in my original comment that prompted me to delete it. (It pays to proofread before posting.) I think you're right on the mark with your analysis of the proposed legislation. We need to encourage use of more fuel-efficient, less-polluting vehicles, not penalize folks who invest in such vehicles. Your article and the comments by your readers brought to mind the "Cash for Clunkers" program of 2009 that was enthusiastically supported by Congressman Fred Upton to boost the economy and encourage retirement of older, less-efficient vehicles. Here's a paragraph from a story I did back then about support for the program from the Michigan Secretary of State: "Cash for Clunkers is the popular name given to the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is designed to stimulate car sales and get less fuel-efficient vehicles off the road." The current legislation seems to be a negative "shifting of the gears" on this topic.

Kay said...

They still haven't decided how to get more money for the road improvement in Hawaii. The gas tax was shot down so they're talking registration fees now. I guess we might find out next year.