by Carl, 02/22/2013, 4:51 PM

I’m not thrilled with Publicola’s “Isn’t It Weird That…” segment as a segment. I’d prefer they do straight reporting rather than shoehorn some (often supposed) hypocrisy into a post that doesn’t need it. But the actual reporting in this piece is worthwhile.

No statewide tax measure can pass without Seattleā€™s support, yet the proposal state house transportation director Judy Clibborn announced yesterday included zero dollars for the new 520 bridge (whose west side remains unfunded) and zero dollars for the new Alaskan Way tunnel (whose estimated revenue from tolls has been slashed from $400 million to just $165 million)?

It’s disgraceful that we’re having this conversation while even the barest discussion of raising revenue for education or social services is verboten, but it is the conversation we’re having. And I want to support this, I do. A car tab would probably be the most progressive piece of taxation in the state, the backlog is real, and the need to invest in our infrastructure is real.

But the need is real in Seattle too. At a certain point, Seattle isn’t going to be a piggy bank for the rest of the state unless they throw us a bone every once in a while.

4 Responses to “Throw the Dog a Bone”

1. MikeBoyScout spews:

Chickens come home to roost.
Pay back is a b*tch.
etc, etc, etc.

2. Roger Rabbit spews:

A car tab tax is progressive in one sense: People who own expensive cars pay more. But it’s also extremely regressive in another, and arguably more important, sense: It screws senior citizens who don’t drive much but need a car for basic chores like grocery shopping and medical appointments.

Here’s how that works. Let’s say an average citizen has a used car worth $20,000 that he drives 2,000 miles a month, mostly for commuting to work. Now let’s say a retiree living on Social Security (and, if he’s lucky, a meager pension) has a used car worth $20,000 that he drives 2,000 miles a year, almost all of it to doctor appointments. Under a car tab tax, those two drivers will pay the same amount of taxes, even though the senior citizen is using roads only one-twelfth as much as the commuting worker, has much less income than the commuting worker, and won’t use the 520 bridge or Alaska Way tunnel at all. To get a meaningful amount of money for those projects, you’ll need a meaningfully high car tab tax, a tax high enough that it’ll really hurt that senior citizen and there’s no fucking way in hell that’s fair.

Bottom line: A car tab tax is a shitty way to raise revenue for megaprojects and anyone with half a conscience will hope it gets shot down. Drivers should pay road taxes according to the miles they drive, period. If you want to hit up well-to-do people who buy status-symbol cars, then do it at the point of sale by imposing a sales tax surcharge on cars costing over a certain amount, or some other device that’s calibrated to a person’s ability to pay.

3. notrouble spews:

The gas tax is about the closest thing we have to “pay by mile” system currently in place. There are 2 catches to the gas tax. It doesn’t automatically increase with inflation (like sales tax) and the revenue per mile actually decreases as the average fuel economy increases. I’d support a 10 cent increase in the gas tax spread over a couple years, but with high gas prices it is mighty unpopular.

4. Ten Years After spews:

I’d say the ten cents per gallon is a surety. The car tab fees won’t be changed. Well, perhaps a little, but not much.