Boston Congestion Zone Charging

fattony

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Then change the gas tax to x%, not x cents per gallon. Solves your inflation issue and solves the issue that legislators actually vote to increase the tax.
We don't make gas tax a % of the cost of gas because the cost of gas fluctuates and is affected by all sorts of things that have nothing to do with how much tax revenue the govt intends to collect. Inflation strongly affects the cost of road building and road maintenance, but does not strongly affect the cost of gasoline.

The gas tax needs to be indexed to the price of goods and services it is intended to purchase, not to the price of gas. The politicians on Beacon Hill *should* put on their big boy/girl pants and raise the tax periodically, but they have refused to do so for 2 decades. Indexing the gas tax to inflation was and remains the only viable long term solution.
 

TallIsGood

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If they want to raise the tax, vote to do so and face the public. They tried the easy way out (indexing) and the public overrode it.
 

JumboBuc

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There is nothing wrong with one-time legislation that puts in place automatic future price changes. Plenty of government-set rates and prices are automatically changed over time according to statutory guidelines, independent regulatory boards, or predetermined rate schedules without a new vote required from the legislature on each occasion. This is fully in keeping with the spirit of democratic representation.
 

TallIsGood

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Fully in keeping with Democratic representation? There was a public initiative position that overruled the legislation. The democracy has spoken, they don't want the indexing. Yes, vote on it every year, that's their job. You may want to live in the theoretical world where the public hasn't spoken, but in Massachusetts they have, no indexing of the gas tax.
 

JumboBuc

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Fully in keeping with Democratic representation? There was a public initiative position that overruled the legislation. The democracy has spoken, they don't want the indexing. Yes, vote on it every year, that's their job. You may want to live in the theoretical world where the public hasn't spoken, but in Massachusetts they have, no indexing of the gas tax.
Just because the measure was defeated that doesn't mean that it was an "absurd idea" or "the easy way out". It was defeated because the public at large has a primal reaction to all things "tax". That doesn't mean that automatically adjusting specific tax rates are inherently bad. What it means is that given the opportunity, the public usually votes for lower taxes regardless of their merit.

Imagine another ballot question that has nothing to do with indexing to inflation but only proposes that gas taxes should increase by a couple cents per gallon on January 1, 2019. Odds are that it would be defeated too.

"Inflation adjusted taxes make sense" and "tax increases get defeated by public initiative" can both be truth and valid.
 

TallIsGood

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The easy way out was trying to index it instead of voting to increase it on a periodic basis so that they could tell voters they didn't vote for a tax increase. Massachusetts takes a huge amount of money. Revenue isn't a problem, spending (and spending priorities) is and over-regulation is. We can argue all we want about whether it's a good idea or not but it was tried and it failed. So I stand by my comment that over lruling the will of the people's shown by popular vote is not in keeping with the spirit of democratic representation. You are free to make voluntary contributions to the MBTA, Mass DOT etc.
 

JumboBuc

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Just for the record, to nobody in particular, Massachusetts ranks 29th in the nation for gasoline taxes and 31st in the nation for diesel taxes. In both cases our state fuel taxes are about 15% below the national average.
 

DominusNovus

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Just for the record, to nobody in particular, Massachusetts ranks 29th in the nation for gasoline taxes and 31st in the nation for diesel taxes. In both cases our state fuel taxes are about 15% below the national average.
Great. Propose raising them to the national average. There's no reason that raising gas taxes every year is any more arduous than other legislation that legislators do. The only reason to index it to inflation was because it seemed politically convenient to do so.
 

FitchburgLine

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Great. Propose raising them to the national average. There's no reason that raising gas taxes every year is any more arduous than other legislation that legislators do. The only reason to index it to inflation was because it seemed politically convenient to do so.
This is not some new concept. Social Security is an order of magnitude larger program that, because of a desire to avoid lobbying around the previous system of sawtooth increases, made the wise decision to switch to automatic inflation adjustments. Apart from sin taxes, the primary example of a government structure that is not inflation adjusted is the minimum wage, which has turned into a political football precisely because lawmakers passing one-line bills to keep a number in accordance with CPI is not something that our political system is well set up to do.
 

George_Apley

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Wait... is the contention here that because voters said 'no' it was a dumb idea? The reason that assessments should be tied to inflation is precisely because the voters are too fickle and reflexively anti-tax to allow adjustments to keep tax revenues flat. Without being chained to inflation, relative taxes fall each year there is economic growth. The voters can't be bothered to be literate enough in basic economics to understand that, so we try to chain things to inflation. It's the height of political cynicism to protest CPI-chained tax rates (or minimum wages, COLA, etc.) for anti-tax purposes.
 

JumboBuc

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Wait... is the contention here that because voters said 'no' it was a dumb idea? The reason that assessments should be tied to inflation is precisely because the voters are too fickle and reflexively anti-tax to allow adjustments to keep tax revenues flat. Without being chained to inflation, relative taxes fall each year there is economic growth. The voters can't be bothered to be literate enough in basic economics to understand that, so we try to chain things to inflation. It's the height of political cynicism to protest CPI-chained tax rates (or minimum wages, COLA, etc.) for anti-tax purposes.
Right. Some on this forum are treating the 2014 ballot question as if it were the product of some elevated discussion on the nature of CPI-chained policy initiatives. It wasn't. Voters saw a chance to lower their taxes, and they took it. The details of the policy didn't matter; all that mattered was that taxes would be lower with a "yes" vote, so 53% of voters voted "yes". We saw the same thing four years earlier with the ballot question that removed alcohol from being subject to sales tax. If you ask voters "do you want taxes on stuff that you buy to be lower?" they'll usually answer "yes". The exact details of the taxing mechanisms (e.g., CPI adjustments, sales tax versus excise tax distinctions, etc.) don't matter, and we shouldn't interpret these votes as discrediting certain policy arrangements in their entirety.
 

TallIsGood

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Votes want the legislature to do their job and if they can support tax increases, to vote for them. With respect to alcohol, its subject to an excise tax so sales tax was just double dipping. I don't understand why the legislature can't vote for an annual tax increase if that makes sense. Hardwiring a tax increase into law was a cowardly way out.
 

Justin7

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OK, so, just to be clear: The argument here is that you think it makes more sense to have the legislature revisit and vote on this annually (along with all the political fun this entails) rather than have the tax simply keep pace with the actual value of money? Is that correct? We're all on the same page?
 

fattony

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I don't understand why the legislature can't vote for an annual tax increase if that makes sense. Hardwiring a tax increase into law was a cowardly way out.
Yes, it is cowardly and no one can understand why the legislature refuses to do their job.

Maintaining the same status quo from the past 2 decades isn't getting the job the done. We'll continue to chronically under-fund our transportation infrastructure. I hope you feel good about standing on principle and holding the legislatures' feet to the flame. Congratulations. Enjoy your principled position with every pothole and traffic jam.
 

TallIsGood

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Yes, the principle of a representative republic is more important than a few potholes.
 

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