And the GOP Alternative Is…. ?

House Republicans have declared Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s transportation-funding plan to be Dead on Arrival. As Jeff Schapiro and Jim Nolan report the story for the Times-Dispatch:

They said they have only to decide how to kill it — “whether we send it into a conference or if we just go home,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.

“I don’t think you’re going to see the governor’s plan succeed or anything close to it,” Griffith said.

Griffith and Del. M. Kirkland Cox of Colonial Heights, the chief House Republican whip, declared the economy in recession, adding that Kaine’s proposed new taxes — on among other things, motor vehicles and real estate sales — would only slow recovery.

“It’s tax, tax and more tax,” Griffith said.

I’m glad to hear it. I didn’t have anything good to say about the plan either. (See “There Is No Health In Us.“) But here’s my question for Republicans: If you don’t like the plan, what do you propose in its place?

Kaine appeared to adopt key elements of the plan — a motor vehicle sales tax, a vehicle registration fee and a grantor’s tax — because House Republicans embraced them last year when they crafted HB 3202, although not in precisely the same configuration. In his naivite, the governor no doubt assumed that if GOP legislators liked those levies last year, they would be OK with them this year. So, how did those charges become so unpalatable all of a sudden? It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that they are just opposed to anything that Kaine might propose.

Here’s what we need from Virginia Republicans: a set of clearly enunciated principles to guide transportation funding. Such principles need to do a number of things. They must:

(1) Create a mechanism for actually raising money. We can’t build a transportation system for the 21st century with fiscal tricks and legerdemain.

(2) Be sustainable over time, and they need to be structured so that legislators can’t lay their hands on the tax money for other purposes.

(3) Display a direct and transparent nexus between who pays and who benefits from transportation projects.

(4) Address the “demand” side of the transportation equation, in other words, incentivize people to seek alternative means of mobility and access.

(5) Incentivize citizens and developers to adopt more transportation-efficient human settlement patterns.

I’ve shown how it is possible to raise billions of dollars to pay for new transportation projects while adhering to these principles. (See “User Pays.”) From what I can tell, those musings have evoked zero interest among Republicans, who, judging by their rhetoric, should be inclined to spending restraints and free market principles. But, unless Republicans can devise a message more positive than “Just say no to taxes,” they are signing their electoral death warrant. Virginians may not trust the politicians to spend their tax money fairly and wisely, but they are looking for solutions.

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  1. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Actually, the Democrat plan has two gains for HR/Tidewater.

    1. Eliminates the HRTA
    2. Adds the HRBT to the list of projects.

    Let’s see if the Republican plan includes those 2 steps forward.

  2. I like principles #1-3, but #4-5 are social engineering, despite protestations to the contrary. Congestion itself is already an incentive to seek alternatives. In fact, it’s the reason I live inside the Beltway and not in a nicer place farther from DC.

    Along the lines of Principle #3, “who pays” should also be the same as “who gets.” I.e., money raised from drivers should only go to roads, not “transportation” which today only means one thing: buses and trains.

    The Griffith-Howell plan is tax, tax and more tax — just be sure to call it a fee or a toll. Because that’s somehow different.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The anti-tax folks need to answer two questions:

    1. – Does Virginia have a structural funding problem with statewide road maintenance?

    (not whether one thinks the trend been “fudged” a little but is there, in fact, a trend?

    2. – Do NoVa and HR/TW really need more transportation money and if they do and if they want to pay for it as a Region and the elected officials from those regions support it then what is the legitimate role of those in the Ga that would block it?

    I’m not sure if Kaine/VDOT’s estimates of when maintenance costs will eat up all of the funds (2013 I believe) was $4 gas part of the calculation.

    It’s possible that a reduction in the fuel-tax revenue projections could accelerate the 2013 date.

    The dead-on-arrival folks have stated that a recession is no time to increase taxes and thats true, especially in the places where the recession has hit hard in Va.

    But it’s going to be quite a spectacle in Richmond if virtually all of the elected officials in NoVa and TW/HR (with support from the citizens) support higher taxes for what they feel is urgent transportation needs their Regions and the RoVa GA blocks it without offering a viable alternative.

    That’s the problem for the Republican leadership in my view.

    Can the leadership stand aside an not forge a consensus alternative .. and still be considered “leadership”?

    This process may well further the “bluing” of NoVa.

  4. “Does Virginia have a structural funding problem with statewide road maintenance?”

    There is a steady amount of money coming in (inflation-adjusted). The problem is one of priorities. Do we blow $5 billion on a train to Dulles and then pretend to be broke? Or do we do the projects that will have the most significant impact for the greatest amount of people.

    I suspect nothing will happen and the gridlock will further erode the GOP majority in the House. The biggest asset the General Assembly has is an incompetent media incapable of conveying the lunacy of what they’ve been doing. Case in point.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    where will the 5 Billion for the rail come from?

    Can you show us in the VDOT budget where that 5 billion is?

  6. Groveton Avatar

    “I suspect nothing will happen and the gridlock will further erode the GOP majority in the House. The biggest asset the General Assembly has is an incompetent media incapable of conveying the lunacy of what they’ve been doing.”.

    Well written!

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I thought you were doing OK until you got to #4 and #5, too.

    Unlike Bob, I think government has a role to play in planning. However, to avoid social engineering that planning needs to – mostly – plan for ways to allow people to do what they want, not prevent it. So there is a fine line between social engineering and what we might rather call planning leadership.

    To address the “demand” side of the transportation equation, in other words, incentivize people to seek alternative means of mobility and access, we should also consider that demand is one half of attraction. We can also manage the demand (attaction) side by incentivizing a few business to locate where people will have more access and mobility as easily or easier than we can incentivize hundreds of thousands to change their habits.

    I get really uneasy when incentivize is a code word for punish, as in tolls. If we want other people to do something then we should be willing to provide positive incentives which we pay for. Otherwise there is no way to keep people honest about what they say they want: they get waht they want at someone else’s expense.

    Allowing the use of negative incentives (like tolls) provides a sysem that is free to those who promote it. Just as free roads are said to be overused, (free) negative incentives are likely to be overused.

    So the difference between social engineering and creating a new and positive free market incentive is whether you are willing to pay for what it is you want.

    Then, if we think there is a real value to having people seek alternative transportation, we should be willing to pay for that to happen, but only up to the point whee the cost is less than or equal to the value.

    Without that, using negative incentives, there is no way and no incentive to care whether the costs exceed the value, especially if it is providing a revenue stream you can divert.

    Such a plan is pernicious and dishonest. Unfortunately, such behavior is becoming more and more accepted, as some kind of popular pseudoscience. Like calling a plan to toll highways a free market approach, when it is nothing of the kind.

    Maybe #5 was intended to address these issues,as it calls for developers to adopt “better patterns”, but I would have felt better if it included not just developers, but all businesses. then there is the underlying problem that we know what patterns are really more transportation, energy, and socially efficient.

    I seriously doubt that anyone does, which leads back to Bob’s complaint: it is social engineering.

    Engineering needs first of all a set of requirements – goals and performance to be met. Then it needs standards for safety, tolerance, cost, etc. which must be adhered to while meeting the goals. Finally, it must have a test plan and criteria by which we can agree if the goals have been met.

    When it comes to social engineering, we don’t have any of these. Nor any plan to get them.

    What we have instead, is politics.


  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Using Ray approach – we’d provide “free” electricity to everyone because we all know everyone benefits from electricity and attempting to charge people the actual cost of what they use is “forcing” them to change their behavior use less than they want to.

    So.. Ray would take a Sports Stadium and charge one price for all the seats because charging higher prices for some seats is “forcing” folks to use seats they don’t want to use.

    You can apply this logic to just about anything that is sold and has a demand for it but it’s the essence of raising taxes for roads.

    the basic idea is that everyone should pay and everyone will benefit and obviously the more people use the more everyone benefits.

    this is quintessential social engineering

  9. The difference is that, if you suspend government red tape for a moment, there’s no limit on the number of firms that could provide electricity to homes and businesses. Free market principles can apply to electricity. It would be inefficient for the government to serve this function.

    Roads are fundamentally different. You can’t have a multitude of competing routes because the space required is very limited. When you don’t have prices set by sellers competing for the business of willing buyers, you have the price set by fiat. In this case, the Australians at Transurban will decide how much they can get away with charging. Tolls represent nothing more than a state sanctioned monopoly. Attempting to apply free market principles to a situation where market rules don’t apply is madness. Roads and defense/police represent two of the fundamental duties of government.

    “The power of establishing post roads must, in every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious management, become productive of great public conveniency. Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.” — Federalist 42

    The only market force at work with toll roads is the market requirement that there always be congestion on side streets and nearby freeways.

  10. hoobie Avatar


    So the governmental subsidies and tax breaks over last 50 or so years for infrastructure which has given us low density automobile dependent suburban sprawl WASN’T social engineering?

    Just checking.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    roads vs electricity

    If we did electricity like we do roads, we’d have brownouts, blackouts, power surges, and in general you’d never no when the power would go out except for the times when there was a heavy load in which case you’d plan on them going out.

    ….. because you’d be selling electricity for less than what it costs so that everyone could have as much as they wanted for very little money so everyone would be using as much as they wanted because it was so cheap.. but then we’d have a slight problem with “congestion”, brownouts, etc…at peak hour

    You can do roads exactly like you do electricity – even better because instead of having one company that handles the entire state – a mega-monopoly, you can have each toll road done on competitive bid just like we do when we put roads out for construction.

    Toll Roads operate successfully worldwide including several in Virginia.

    Florida uses toll road profits to build more toll roads… and in the process.. provides more and more roads for the public – without raising their taxes…without having the slush funds that both of us agree are no good and without having a top-heavy DOT planning roads they don’t have money for.

    “social engineering” is a government mindset that takes your money and tells you what you need.

    we don’t need it for roads or electricity.

    we might need it for schools and facilities and services for those who cannot fend for themselves but we do not need it for folks who can afford to drive solo in SUVs.

    People who can afford to drive solo in SUVs at rush hour can afford to buy their way out of congestion.

    I think you also do not understand the difference between a basic rural road verse a commuter-grade interstate road in terms of costs and in terms of user pays.

    Old rural roads that have been around for 75 years have been paid off many times over.. but let’s just assume for argument sake that they RoVa folks “owe” something.

    Unless you could provide some fairly convincing data to back up what you are implying.. I think your claim is basically horsefeathers.

    at any rate.. you’re talking about taxing folks who make 1/2 to 1/3 the salaries of the folks in NoVA to pay so that they can drive their SUVs solo at rush hour.

    besides.. aren’t you the one who says there is already plenty of money but they waste it on NoVa transit and bike trails?

    why do you want to blame RoVa?

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Using Ray approach – people who want electricity would pay to have it. If someone else thinks they want other people to NOT have electricity because it benefits themselves, then they would pay the people they don’t want to have it. they would make it worth their while to do without.

    Presumably they would be willing to pay in order to get the benefit they claim, but they would not pay more than the benefit is worth.

    But, if you allow themm to claim property rights over the high moral ground and simply charge others a premium for whtever they claim is “excessive” then there is no restraint on that market: they get what they want for less than nothing, and without regard for what it is worth.

    The “Ray System” is called paying for what you want, and paying enough for others to part with what they have.

    The other systems are called stealing and slavery.

    You can make fun of the “Ray system” all you want, but it is at least consistent, and generally fairly popular.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    “Ray would take a Sports Stadium and charge one price for all the seats because charging higher prices for some seats is “forcing” folks to use seats they don’t want to use.”

    Ray wouldn’t take a sports stadium. That is called stealing.

    If Ray bought a sports stadium, then he would own the seats, and he would part with them for whatever he thought he could get. Someone else, named Larry or something, may think that my system leads to speculation that drives up the cost of the seats, leds to windfall profits, and unfair distribution.

    He is welcome to buy as many seats as he likes and redistribute them at lower prices or according to his own perception of benefit, mores, or pesonal prejudices. no doubt he will gain the benefit of many new “friends” from his endeavor. Most probably he won’t buy more seats than he needs friends. He will pay for what he gets, and Ray will pay for what he gets (the stadium), and everybody ought to be happy.

    Or, he can just get a law passed that says all of my customers have to pay him, too, because he receives an externalized disbenefit from my operations. he can then go spend that money anyway he wants, because he wasn’t really interested in a seat in the stadium anyway.

    Presumably, if he gets that law passed, it is because there really is some kind of externalized disbenefit.

    How much do you trust the GA?

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Now. Explain to me again, how it is that selling something I own for whatver I can get someone to pay, is just like raising taxes for roads.

    The simile fails me.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    “Tolls represent nothing more than a state sanctioned monopoly. Attempting to apply free market principles to a situation where market rules don’t apply is madness. “

    Bob is right, and Larry is wrong.

    Except, try this on for size. instead of selling the roads to the Australians, we have a big lottery and give the roads (that we paid for) to ourselves.

    We’ll divide all the roads up into 35 million equal size pieces. We’ll have a lottery and give each of Virginia’s 7 million residents 5roadshares at random.

    Each person would be allowed to charge whatever tolls on his shares that he could get away with. But he would have to provide his own toll system.

    Residents could buy and sell shares on EBAY to get coalitions of strategic controlling interests in place, and assemble tolling juridictions that make sense in the market. Coalitions that were less strategic would charge lower prices, in order to compete.

    No one could claim they were getting ripped off. But the state would put a 15% tax on all the tolls collected. Taht money would be redistribued back to the county budget wherever the shareowners live.

    Which roadways do you think would get the highest bids?

    You think maybe ROVA would suddenly take a lot more interest in NOVA roads? That they would want to increase their take by making sure traffic flowed efficiently?


  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Using Ray approach – people who want electricity would pay to have it. If someone else thinks they want other people to NOT have electricity because it benefits themselves,”

    Ray… who want to deny others electricity?

    Most folks I know want to pay for the electricity they use.

  17. Groveton Avatar

    Larry, Larry, Larry …

    “at any rate.. you’re talking about taxing folks who make 1/2 to 1/3 the salaries of the folks in NoVA to pay so that they can drive their SUVs solo at rush hour.”.

    You’ve hit the hat trick – illogic, hyperbole and incorrect facts all in a sentence fragment. That’s hard to do.

    Hyperbole – driving SUVs solo at rush hour. How many “dime store cowboys” are driving their 8 MPG pick up trucks in Fredricksburg?

    Illogic – taxing people who make 1/2 to 1/3 the salaries of the folks in NoVA. Don’t the people making the higher salaries pay more in taxes? And … do the tax rates take cost of living into account? So, doesn’t a person making $30,000 per year in NoVA give up more purchasing power to the taxman than a person making $30,000 somewhere else? Once again, you’ve remembered income but forgotten taxes.

    Incorrect facts – people in RoVA make 1/3 to 1/2 the salaries of the people in NoVA. Where, in your estimation, are Prince William County and Henrico County? NoVA and RoVA? OK. Let’s look at per capita income in those two counties.

    Prince William County (NoVA): The per capita income for the county was $25,641.

    Henrico Countyy (RoVA): The per capita income for the county was $26,410.

    Source: Wikipedia

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    1 Great Falls, Virginia $78,149
    2 McLean, Virginia $63,209
    3 Wolf Trap, Virginia $56,294
    367 Dillwyn, Virginia $11,091
    368 Keokee, Virginia $11,025
    369 Clinchport, Virginia $10,485

    Groveton.. does it matter what kind of tax.. income or sales when your actual income IS 1/3 to 1/4 of NoVa?

    re: SUVs solo at rush hour and Fredericksburg’s dime store cowboys.

    Many of the SUV owners in Fredericksburg are actually NoVa commuters though they probably pretend to be good ol boys on weekends..

    Everybody in Fredericksburg, even the ones that work locally and not add to the I-95 congestion have to pay 2% on their gas purchases to subsidize VRE commuters (at a thousand bucks a seat) who make substantially more money than the folks work locally.

    I just find it bizarre to argue that those that choose not to commute and who usually earn substantially less because they don’t commute should be paying taxes to pay for commuting facilities – both roads and VRE for those that do commute.

  19. Groveton Avatar


    NoVA doesn’t have an income. Only its residents have incomes. Should a poor person living in a trailer park on Rt 1 in Fairfax County pay taxes to subsidize the educational costs of rich kids in Henrico County? If you are talking about individuals – fine. Let’s talk about further graduations to the income tax after we talk about adjustng income to reflect the different costs of living in different parts of the state. That’s certainly fair. But if we’re talking about regions then we have to talk about total taxes paid vs. total public services provided if we’re going to have a “fairness debate”. Bob is right about the various funds in Virginia. They are BS. Money is shipped from one fund to another and allocated back through a byzantine morass of formulae. I don’t buy either the isolation of taxes and costs or the allocation of taxes and costs. I think it’s all a great big scam perpetuated by the politicians in Richmond to hide what they are really doing. So, when you talk about individuals paying 2% on their gas purchases to subsidize VRE I have to wonder – how much of the higher salaries of the VRE commuters are subsidizing something they don’t use? For example, some guy who spends his whole life commuting and working doesn’t get much value from a fine local park in Fredricksburg. Why should his real estate taxes help pay for that park. Maybe parks should be “user pays”. Build a fence around the park and install a toll gate to get in. Local library – same thing. Where does it end?

    If you want to talk regional fairness then we need a regional income statement. You don’t know if the present arrangement is fair and neither do I. And that’s just the way Richmond wants it.

  20. J. Tyler Ballance Avatar
    J. Tyler Ballance

    Like manna from Heaven, the Republicans are out in force. All of their statewide candidates are trumpeting the virtues of Tolls and the use of public-private partnerships, otherwise known as selling our infrastructure to Dutch and Red Chinese interests.

    If Creigh Deeds will take the position that not one inch of highway will be sold out from under the citizens, he will have a HUGE crossover vote from Virginia Republicans.

    John Miller needed a big Republican crossover to win in the First District and he got it when his opponent gave him a gift by saying that she would de-fund public schools. Now, the Republicans have come right out on the record and said what many of us had suspected for a long time, they represent the big multinational oligarchs, and not the citizens of Virginia.

    If Creigh will only come out against these sell-offs of our infrastructure, he will be our next Governor and probably any other office that he wants will be there on a platter, since he will have earned the love and respect of the rank and file of Virginians from all political parties.

    If Creigh will steadfastly oppose these, so-called public-private partnerships, he can put my name at the top of the list of Republicans for Creigh Deeds and I will be happy to actively campaign on his behalf.

    The Republican leadership has indicated their plan to sell us out. My hope and my prayer is that Creigh will stand with, and for the citizens, and oppose any form of the sale of infrastructure, or Tolls on our roads. I would much rather pay a gas tax increase than pass along the legacy of toll roads and foreign ownership to our next generation.

    I am not ready to abandon the GOP, but this current crop of “leaders” has clearly signaled that they are working for the multinationals and not Us. I will work for and support candidates who stand with the citizens and who will not sell us out to foreign interests.

    Creigh Deeds is the only Democrat that I know who can, like Jim Webb, get a major crossover vote from statewide Republicans and Conservatives. If Creigh takes a strong stand for the citizens and against multinational ownership of our infrastructure, Virginians will love him as our next Governor.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Most folks I know want to pay for the electricity they use.

    Sure, but do they want to pay for a smart meter so they can pay 8x for electricity when they need it most, on the off chance that it will eventually save someone else money?


  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Those that choose not to commute and who usually earn substantially less because they don’t commute may not be capable of holding the jobs of those that do.

    Let’s not get too carried away on this choice thing.


    “How much of the higher salaries of the VRE commuters are subsidizing something they don’t use?”

    Good point. After you take on all the transaction costs involved in settng straight every one of Larry’s assumed disequalities towards thosw with less money, and after you take into account all of the contervailing disequalities, and then divide all that by 7 million citizens, you would probably find that you would need a slew of new taxes and user fees to pay for a system that proves it isn’t worth worrying about.

    It is a self defeating argument.


    Sure, lets make everything user pays, and cash up front, we will turn all of government into free enterprise and then shut government down.

    Who will you complain to about windfall profits then?

    Who will be looking after your property rights or your pristine environment?

    Only the people who you are willing to pay to do that, and who are willing to do it for what you are willing to pay.


  23. Anonymous Avatar

    “You don’t know if the present arrangement is fair and neither do I. And that’s just the way Richmond wants it.”

    Which is pretty much what I have been trying to demonstrate for several years.

    Nobody knows how to balance this ledger. We may be approaching the point where supercomputers could track enough transactions to figure it out.

    But first we need to agree on some ground rules, which we don’t have.

    We can start with one that says a tax, fine, user fee or toll is NOT an incentive.


  24. hoobie says: “So the governmental subsidies and tax breaks over last 50 or so years for infrastructure which has given us low density automobile dependent suburban sprawl WASN’T social engineering?”

    The definition of social engineering is fooling someone into doing something he doesn’t want to do. It’s always based on the premise that the government always knows best. You “incentivize” people to eat their broccoli; there is no need to “incentivize” the consumption of Doritos and beer.

    Mr Ballance says: “If Creigh Deeds will take the position that not one inch of highway will be sold out from under the citizens, he will have a HUGE crossover vote from Virginia Republicans.”

    This is the lesson of Indiana, but the VA’s GOP is too dim to learn it.

  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: Virginia’s byzantine smoke&mirror approach to budgeting…

    questions. questions.

    Is this a Virginia’s “thing” or is this your basic “Government is inherently evil” … “thing”?

    Does Virginia use means testing for individuals for income and taxes?


    Does Virginia use means testing for localities for statewide school funding?

    Yes. It’s called the composite index and the locality fiscal stress index.

    re: tit for tat cross subsidies aka known as for every way I subsidize you, you must subsidize me equivalently through another subsidy.

    How about we do this. We make sure every kid gets an equivalent education but then the kids who get “subsidized” ..when they grow up “owe” that money and we’ll call them modern day indentured servants.

    That way, we’ll have an endless supply of service employees.

    My view on this is crystal clear.

    We subsidize those who cannot fend for themselves – kids, elderly, handicapped, the sick.

    We do not subsidize people who do quite well earning a living and we certainly do not subsidize things for which there is a demand from the same folks..

    I’ll admit this. The gross amount of money spent for education – both at the local level and at the State level is substantial – well over half the budget and approaches 2/3.

    We can say the same about VDOT. 4 Billion dollars a year and “broke” seem to be mega oxymorons.

    I would agree with any and all who say that we need more transparency and more accountability.

    I would disagree that BECAUSE of the lack of the above.. that we have subsidy “parity”.

    I say again:

    We subsidize those that truly need it and we do not subsidize those who obviously don’t need it.

    as far as libraries and parks are concerned.. Groveton you are off in the ozone…

    THE MOST CROWDED and OVERWHELMED facilities in the Fredericksburg Area on evenings and weekends ARE the libraries and parks.

    We have folks screaming that there are not enough soccer fields.

    and I WOULD actually support fees fo those that could afford it and free passes for those that cannot.

    Trying to equate “free roads” with “free schools” is boneheaded and mean-spirited IMHO.

    It boils down to a philosophy of “user pays” – no exceptions.


  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: tolls or taxes for roads

    this is a simple thing.

    major new taxes for gasoline (sufficient for say.. tunnels in HR/TW) is a non-starter.

    The 1% sales tax (if it passes) won’t generate the kind of money that will be needed unless you want to try to “save up” the money… which in all likelihood will take decades and inflation will keep pushing the costs up higher every year.

    TOLLs are going to be the answer just like they were the right answer for the CBBT.

    But here’s the problem.

    We have folks who say that you cannot trust the private sector AND you cannot trust VDOT so therefore tolls are not an option.

    We say this as we’ve watched the CBBT operate successfully for decades..

    So let’s summarize.

    1. the chances of raising gas taxes high enough to generate the kind of money that some say is needed – is problematical to say the least.

    2. another group says that tolls are out

    3. we transit these thoughts to our GA reps and we await with anticipating a “do nothing” response

    and ..what exactly were we expecting?

    except for Bob and Groveton, of course who believe that the problem is one of governmental and VDOT conspiracy and corruption on a level not seen in other states.

    people. people. listen to yourselves.

    what we hear is that no path is correct.. and it’s the government’s fault….

    tsk tsk

  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m not sure I’ve seen specifics like those provided by the local Free Lance Star on Kaine’s Plan:

    Money would come from:

    A 1 percent increase in motor vehicle sales and use tax statewide from 3 percent to 4 percent and rededicate another existing 1 percent of the tax to highway maintenance.

    Also boosting the yearly vehicle registration fee from $39 to $49. This would raise between $445 million to $512 million a year for MAINTENANCE [my caps].

    A 25-cent increase per $100 in the real estate seller’s (grantor) tax statewide. This would raise $142 million to $155 million a year for MASS TRANSIT [my caps] projects AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT [my caps].

    For Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads only:

    A 1 percent increase in the sales tax,

    This would raise

    $306 million to $414 million a year for Northern Virginia

    and $168 million to $227 million for Hampton Roads.

    In Northern Virginia, $25 million would go toward the Virginia Railway Express for locomotives and additional service.

    so .. how about some comments on the SPECIFICs of Kaine’s Proposal and how about some SPECIFIC alternatives suggestions?

    I’ll start.

    I think Kaine’s plan shows some thought .. it’s a plan.. it’s probably butt-ugly in some folks eyes but it’s not an AWOL effort as we have seen from some pols…

    Basically Kaine did what he said he would do:

    1. – addressed the State level maintenance issues

    2. – addressed the urbanized areas of NoVa and HR/TW.

    3. – he listened AND reacted to what citizens have advocated (such as abolishing the HR/TW transportation authority and including the HR tunnel.

    CONs: could not have picked a worse time to advocate raising taxes..

    PROs: The overall economy has not cratered and Virginia’s economy is suffering nicks rather than deep wounds .. so far….

  28. J. Tyler Ballance Avatar
    J. Tyler Ballance

    We are all numb from the recent insane gas price increases, so if we suddenly added five cents to the gas tax nobody would even notice if gas went fro $3.73 to $3.78.

    If Tim Kaine want to win some Republican support, he should include a gas tax increase along with a Bond package and some deep cuts to unproductive programs like Police and new prison construction, and of course his beloved Pre-K socialist experiment.

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    You insist on thinking that gas taxes are anonsarter and won’t work, even though most environmental economists say they are the best approach – both for raisng money equtabley AND for reducing driving, pollution, and oil imports.

    You insist that tolls are not a new tax, that they will raise more money than the gas tax, that they are somehow more of a user pays system, and they they won’t require a massive new bureacracy to administer.

    I insist that you are dead flat wrong. Your position on gas taxes is unsupportable, and your position on tolls is unconsionable.

    And twice this week I heard on the traffic report of crashes at the toll booth. I nearly saw one in the lne next to me a few weeks ago, when someone without an EZ pass discovred he was in the wrong land and stopped, while the guy behind him was planning on whistling through at 40 MPH.

    When an accident happens once, its an accident. When it happens over and over, it is someones fault, and something needs to be changed.

    Like I said, if we each owned our on little piece fo the roadway system, we would feel a lot different about what is important, and waht was important would quickly become obvious.

    The fact that we don’t own individual pieces, but own it all communally, doesn’t change the facts concerning what is most important.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    The Nissan Motor Company plans to sell an electric car in the United States and Japan by 2010, raising the stakes in the race to develop environmentally friendly vehicles. … The zero emissions refers to those from the car’s tailpipe and not those from the production of electricity used to power the car. …

    Mr. Ghosn [Nissan’s chief executive], …, said the Israeli government would encourage sales of electric cars by sharply cutting taxes to levels below those on gasoline-powered vehicles.

    “We would never have done this if the Israeli government was not encouraging it,” he said. “Whoever puts the most incentive on the table is going to get the technology first.”

    Quote. Incentives matter. Unquote.

    From the environmental economics blog.


  31. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: 5 cent gas tax increase and “environmental economists”.

    The problem with the 5 cent increase not being noticed is that it’s funding won’t be noticed either.

    It will bring in about 50-80 million.

    To bring in the kind of Money that Kaine is talking about would require an increase of 50 cents.

    and that’s what I’m asking readers here for – specific solutions of the scope and scale of what Kaine if offering ..OR some logic that Kaine is asking for far more than we really need – in which case I’d ask that you show WHERE you WOULD put money and how much.

    “environmental economists”?

    who are these folks and where are their proposals and how does that fit into the politics of “no”?

  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “You insist that tolls are not a new tax, that they will raise more money than the gas tax, that they are somehow more of a user pays system, and they they won’t require a massive new bureacracy to administer.”

    I call them by what they are called by most folks and mostly to distinguish them from gas taxes.

    and I don’t claim that they will bring in more money than gas taxes but plenty of other folks do and they are backed up by real live results.

    re: tollbooths accidents

    re: accidents that result from using shoulders for general purpose traffic lanes

    re: unsafe bridges because 4billion is not enough to fix them

    tolls have issues but so does a gas tax system that does not prioritize safety improvements over new capacity.

    it proves nothing…other than how many “anti” talking points can be used.

    so I ask you once more.. if you don’t like tolls and you don’t like Kaine’s Plan.. put your plan on the table..

    not some vague reference to “environmental economists” but a plan…

    is your plan a 50 cent increase on the gas tax statewide – and be done with it?

    If it is.. tell me which of the GA supports this…

    tell me how much of the public supports it.

    If the public does not support it and Kaine does not support it and the Republicans do not support it.. then is it a plan or is it blather?

    give a real plan.. one that has some chance of being at least considered…

  33. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: $4 gas, electric cars and an increase of 50 cent gas tax

    does anyone else see a trend here with respect to the gas tax being a viable funding source for more/new roads and road maintenance?

    Cars that go 50 miles on one $5-10 fillup of electric “gas” does what to the gas tax ?

    bonus question: Could the Virginia GA .. legislatively COPE with the VDOT revenue impacts of electric cars?

    extra special bonus question:

    Would Dominion Power know what to do? ( that one is a softball) 🙂

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    “Yesterday, I was spending time with a friend who lives in rural Maryland, and he mentioned that he’d just sent his resume out in DC looking for a job so he could move into the city. His reason? High gas prices. Driving around Montgomery County every day has simply become too pricey.

    We discussed this as he filled up with $3.81/gal gas. It was fascinating seeing short run price inelasticity juxtaposed so immediately on long run price elasticity.”

    From common tragedies blog.

    My plan? If the gas tax needs to be raised 50 cents, then raise t fifty cents, and stop screwing around. Stop pretending that some other tax isn’t a tax, and stop pretending that some other tax will do all the good things a proper gas tax will do.


  35. Anonymous Avatar

    If you fill up with electric gas, it is still fuel.

    Tax it accordingly, if and when a big changeover becomes a financial problem.

    What applies for the gas tax applies for any transportation “fuel”. Set the tax where you need to set it to get the required revenue, ans stop squawking. The revenue is going to come out of our pockets anyway, it might as well be proportionate to ACTUAL use.

    While you are at it, set it high enough so you can collect enough money to pay people to car pool.


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    “if we were to raise the gas tax, then rebate half the revenues to citizens on some kind of flat per person basis, and make the other half available to fund transit projects, there’d be no net burden on the population, you’d create an incentive to use alternative forms of transportation where they exist, and you’d have a pool of revenue available to create alternative forms of transportation.”

    “Rob Goodspeed points out that we have substantial evidence that consumers bear only around half the burden of gasoline taxes over the long run, with the rest of the incidence falling on the oil companies.”

  37. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Let me try to lend some conceptual clarity to the issue of whether “automobiles pay their own way.”

    Bob performs some useful research to show the many ways in which local governments tax automobile owners to support non-transportation spending. There is no denying this: Local governments will tax everything in sight.

    At the same time, road and highway funding is subsidized at the state level from a variety of sources, some of which are related to automobile ownership generally (auto insurance premiums and the like), and some of which are outright subsidies from the General Fund.

    Basically, what we have is a system of massive cross-subsidies that make incoherent the principle of “user pays.”

    One can argue whether, after you net out all the subsidies, automobile owners as a class pay their own way. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. It really doesn’t matter. Here’s why:

    First, the question ignores all the subsidies *between* automobile owners, in which those who drive only modest amounts subsidize those who drive a lot.

    Secondly, the whole system is so opaque that drivers lack the information they need to modify their behavior in economically rational ways.

    As a result, the current system, regardless of whether cars “pay their own way” in the abstract, does not lend itself to the desirable outcome of people driving less — which a transparent, user-pays system would do.

  38. Anonymous Avatar

    “Charles River Associates (1977) (EE0209) evaluated a parking tax, a gasoline tax and an emissions tax as policy instruments for managing automotive emissions in the Los Angeles area. They concluded that a gasoline tax or an emissions tax would be more cost-effective than a parking tax in reducing vehicle miles traveled and emissions. Mass transit improvements lower the costs of travel to an individual but raise costs to society and are even less cost-effective. “

    National Center for Environmental Economics (EPA)!OpenDocument


  39. Anonymous Avatar

    Yes Jim, the concept of susidies between users is different form the idea of whether auto users as a whole pay their own way.

    I think we can pretty much dispose of the second one as a myth. Let’s not use that arguement any more, whether against autos, sprawl, or in favor of mass transit. It’s a lousy argument and it isn’t true.

    Using it weakens the position of anyone who tries.


    The gas tax encourages people to drive less and to drive more efficient vehicles. It is about as transparent as you can get, which is a major reason so many people are opposed to it.

    It can be implemented in a matter of days, with no additonal bureaucracy or infrstructure.

    And those who drive less will then subsidize others less. But, it should not be the only support for highways. Non-users get many benefits from roads, which they should pay for. We do this with the many fees that affect auto users generally.

    But high use driver pay these fees as well, so just consider these and the other indirect or non-user fees as a baseline which all people contribute to, like schools.

    Then, if you want to drive more (or get a higher education) then you have to pay more of your own costs.


  40. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    good link… thanks..

    did not see the conclusion that you claim…

    can you extract it and/or show where it is?

  41. Anonymous Avatar

    But, don’t think that driving less or charging more for it comes without a cost.

    “In Kokomo, Ind., last week, Kathy Spier said the rising cost of gas is to blame for the 50 percent drop-off in sales at her three exotic lingerie stores. “They don’t have extra money to spend on frivolous things,” she said.”

    Washington Post


  42. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: gas tax politics and “transparency”

    How much MORE is needed for roads and how much of an increase in the gas tax will be required?

    Bob sez that there is enough money already though I await an answer as to what car-related taxes are not being captured for roads….

    but anyhow Bob sez no increase is needed.. the “no mo tax” argument.

    others like RH argue that more money should be done with the gas tax but don’t talk about how much is needed…

    so some folks suggest a nickel while others say do the 50 cent deal.. which I think is just plain ludicrous.. in terms of claiming that this is a “solution”.

    A “solution” that gets a bunch of folks voted out of office and the tax rescinded like the abuser fees were is no solution.. it basically kicks the can down the road just like the abuse fee “solution” did…

    so at this point.. I do not see any level of concurrence about how much MORE money the state needs.

    Kaine sez about a billion a year.

    I hear zip from others except for Bob who sez Nada…

    my view – in case it has escaped folks:

    1. accept the fiscal realities of maintenance costs OR prove that there is massive waste in maintenance

    2. index the gas tax

    3. give NoVa and HR/TW the latitude to have their respective citizens decide how much more they want to pay for transportation and for what projects.

    4. do away with the Fed gas tax – it’s a festering hole of corruption and waste

    5. make Va localities “lockbox” auto property taxes and decals and the like for transportation funding ONLY.

    6. make Va localities directly responsible for the transportation consequences of land-use decisions.

    7. use TOLLs to get urgent infrastructure built quickly and brought online quickly

    8. Consider cordon tolls for places like Tysons

    9. address the outlaw behavior of toll road operators like the Airports Authority

    10. Follow the JLARC recommendations for VDOT and the dividing up responsibility for the States roads to Statewide, Regional and Local.

    I think the above IS politically doeable and likely to be effective and sustainable.

  43. Anonymous Avatar

    “Don Fullerton considers himself an environmentalist, but he readily concedes that like-minded folks may fervently disagree.

    That’s because Fullerton, a visiting professor of finance, is an environmental economist.

    “Which is all sort of ironic, because environmentalists tend to hate economists,” he says with a laugh.

    But Fullerton explains the divergence in simple terms. He believes that the environmental benefits ought to exceed economic costs of any program to reduce or clean up pollution.

    “Environmentalists don’t like that view, because they would always want more pollution abatement. They may believe pollution is inherently wrong, so we should have none of it,” says Fullerton, who arrived at the University of Illinois this fall to join the newly established Center for Business and Public Policy. “That’s not realistic. The only way to have no pollution is to have no economic activity.””

    “Fullerton has found that government mandates to reduce pollution often fail because governments do not implement the cheapest manner of abatement. “

    Fullerton studied a town that witched from a monthly subscription fee for garbage collection to a Per Bag fee.

    Sure enough, the number of bags went down by 37%, But the weight of the bags went up by 14%.

    What happened to the rest? some recycling, some illegal dumping.

    ““Yes, a bag of garbage is socially costly,” says Fullerton. “It has external pollution attributes, so many have proposed a charge per bag of garbage. But it is not as costly as that same bag of garbage thrown into the woods or a vacant lot, or thrown out the car window by the side of the road. As soon as you assume that a given bag of garbage is more costly when dumped than when put in a landfill—which must be true— then instead of charging for garbage collection we should be subsidizing it. The policy implications are the exact opposite.””

    “Fullerton suggests that cities continue municipal garbage service without the price per bag, but market it as a depositrefund system. Instead of bringing those soda bottles back to the store for a mere 10 cents each, this deposit-refund model takes on a more big-picture flavor. When a purchase is made at a store, an extra fee would be collected that would “reflect the social external damages from dumping that item.” The refund then would be “free” collection.”

    In other words, everyone pays a tax when they buy stuff, and everyone gets free pick up, and everyone gets a lower cost service, and we don’t squal like a stuck pig just because someone gets “subsidized” because he “chooses” to live farther from the dump.

    Very similar to a gas tax. Oh and fullerton says that a gas tax, while unpopular is a logical place to start.

    “As an economist, he believes he can do that by examining the marketplace and finding policies that will help achieve the cheapest methods of pollution abatement— because the cheaper the methods, the more likely they will be accepted by the public and implemented by policy.

    “That’s why a cost-benefit analysis is useful, to design policies that help cut pollution in the cheapest possible ways— then we can afford more pollution control measures than if done in these expensive ways,” he says. “Ultimately, that’s what environmentalists and environmental economists both want— efforts that will have the most positive impact on the environment.””

    And it is also why tolls are a dumb idea for general highway revenues, even if they work in special circumstances.

    And Larry thinks my ideas are nutty.


  44. To Mr. Bacon: (RH covered these points, but I typed this before his message appeared)
    “One can argue whether, after you net out all the subsidies, automobile owners as a class pay their own way.”

    It’s not a matter of argument, it’s a matter of mathematics. There is an answer to the question, and only one answer. I’d say that whether one driver “subsidizes” another is the question that does not matter. You’re really getting into the weeds to worry about the “modest” vs. “not so modest” driving levels — especially since the gas tax does charge the “modest” more than the “immodest.” Even more so if the immodest lout drives an SUV.

    I dispute that “less driving” is in itself a desirable goal. The only desirable goals the government should set are: economic growth and nice air. Modern auto use is necessary for the former and compatible with the latter — lots of car-free 18th Century cities had disgusting air. Less driving may be a means to an end in certain circumstances, but it is not itself a goal.

    Would you support scrapping the vast array of fees & taxes and replacing them with just a registration fee and a proportionately larger gas tax? It would establish clarity. It would charge users according to their use. It is the simplest, cheapest option to reach both goals without creating a more powerful surveillance state.

    To Mr. Gross,
    “Bob sez that there is enough money already though I await an answer as to what car-related taxes are not being captured for roads”

    I need a more granular transportation budget document — and a few hundred hours worth of spare time — to figure that out. I will answer with the Fairfax County budget: $200 million. Since that county has about 1/7th the population of the state, you can see the thievery MAY be in the $1b range, although probably the poorer cities/counties can’t afford to steal quite so much.

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    Tom Friedman Jumps on the Gas tax Bandwagon

    “As a higher gas tax discouraged oil consumption, the Harvard University economist and former Bush adviser N. Gregory Mankiw has argued: “the price of oil would fall in world markets. As a result, the price of gas to [U.S.] consumers would rise by less than the increase in the tax. Some of the tax would in effect be paid by Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.””


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    “others like RH argue that more money should be done with the gas tax but don’t talk about how much is needed…”

    Friedman is talking about a buck a gallon.

    I just think that if we decide we have too much income coming from sources that are not dierctly use dependent, then we can alter the ratios to create more of a disincentive for driving and less of an interdriver subsidy, if you think there is one.

    Also, you can offset an increase in the gas tax by reducing other taxes, so that it is less regressive.


  47. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree with the essence of the philosophy of cost benefit and I agree that some hard-core environmentalists believe that no level of abatement is acceptable until pristine is reached.

    I am not among them but I do require that an economic “idea” actually PERFORM as it moves from theory to practice and that’s where economists fall off the rail.. oftentimes..

    Sometimes their solutions are just as impractical and untested as the hard core Ecos…

    neither seem to grasp practical realities at times..

    this is why you’ll find me a skeptic about traffic generation from mixed-use “smart” development.

    I want to see proof that the “theory” behind Smart Growth – actually does work

    this is why I question the current approach to the C-Bay cleanujp..

    I think some of Rays ideas are cockamamie because they fail the practical/realistic “smell” test and calling in those with “credentials” to “prove” that a cockamamie idea “works” on paper when there are no examples of it actually “working” for real and little evidence that it will..and there are not even pilots….

    well.. the evidence stacks against

    and Ray if tolls are such a dumb idea …how come they “work” on roads like the CBBT?

    You have to admit that tolls have been around a long time and if they did not “work”, they’d go away…

    so we know that they do “work” not from some words on a paper but for real.

    You just don’t agree with the basis for their operations..much like you don’t agree charging folks for their use of peak hour electricity.

    The reality is that you technologically CAN implement peak-hour charging.

    It’s not a paper concept that’s never been tested like some of the ideas being proposed…

    Even the idea of charging by the mile has been tested.. and more testing continuing…and because of it we see some real practical problems with – not the technology – but the process.. i.e. how do you account for out-of-state miles, etc…

    but I’ll agree.. many ideas that turned into practical uses …did started out as cockamamie..ideas…so I give Ray credit but reserve the right to use the cockamamie word…


  48. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: Bob’s quest to get to the bottom of the road funding facts by following the locality property tax path…

    I will agree ahead of time without proof (but would like to see some) with this premise.

    Individuals (and localities) that jump up an down about “raiding” the transportation lock box at the State level do it ALL THE TIME at the local level…

    ….IF.. and this is the BIG IF..

    one thinks that ALL revenues from cars “belongs” to roads….


    as such holds consistent principles that roads should not receive funds that do not accrue from cars…

    I think.. at the end of the day.. we’re going to find that even after throwing out the rail/transit/trail “diverts” but also accounting for the 1/2% sales tax and General Revenues road supplements that it is going to be very close….

    and I note.. that Kaine actually did, in his plan, separate transit from roads by targeting the grantor’s tax to transit

    .. and by letting the local officials held accountable by local citizens decide how to allocate the 1% sales tax for NoVa/HR/TW.

  49. Anonymous Avatar

    “cost-benefit analysis is useful, to design policies that help cut pollution in the cheapest possible ways— then we can afford more pollution control measures than if done in these expensive ways”

    You think that is cockamamie?

    To me, that boils down to the simple fact that if it costs more, it pollutes more. So, given that we will have some controls, we need to ensure they are the best and cheapest we can get.

    And, that the beneficiaries share the cost.

    “I do require that an economic “idea” actually PERFORM as it moves from theory to practice”

    And so should environmental ideas. most of what we have done in the past, curing major problems, surely does work.

    A good deal of what is on the table now, not so much.


  50. Anonymous Avatar

    “consistent principles that roads should not receive funds that do not accrue from cars…”

    I don’t think this is true. jaut about everyone uses cars so even the 1/2 cent sales tax is paid by drivers. As long as we understand there isa reason for shoosing this source, what difference does it make?

    We yak about the connection between transportation and land use, why shouldn’t some land use taxes support transportation?

    Etc. Etc. why should road money be ONLY traceable directly toe the use of cars?


  51. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …why should road money be ONLY traceable directly toe the use of cars?

    because that’s the basis for the claim that certain funds “belong” to roads.

    your claim that everybody benefit from roads is bullfeathers…

    you could make the same claim about electricity or schools or just about anything as justification for any/all money that can be gobbled up from the budget…

    nothing else gets the deal that roads get – none of justified to get certain revenues from the get go – except roads.

    otherwise – the claim that money was/is being “diverted” to non-road uses would be totally bogus…

    if you are using non-car money to spend on transit..or bike trails what’s the beef? Are you going to claim that the money is being “diverted” from the budget itself?

    your statement basically is that because roads are useful – that they are entitled to carte Blanche budgets…. a Non sequitur if there ever was one…

  52. Anonymous Avatar

    “because that’s the basis for the claim that certain funds “belong” to roads.”

    You are confused.

    The idea that road derived moneys should be used only for roads is not exclusive to the idea that other funds are also appropriate.

    Nobody in their right mind would claim tht roads should be funded ONLY by road derived funds.

    The idea that everybody benefits from roads is NOT bullfeathers…because not only are 95% plus of the population road users, but we also know there are many other values conferred by roads. Whoever the beneficiaries of THOSE values are should also contribute to roads.

    We recognize that development value is dependent on roads, so we should collect for that separate and in addition to, road use.

    Retail value is dependent on accessibility, so there is no reason not to capture some of that value.

    A fire station is not much value to you with out roads, even if you don’t drive.

    If we insist that all road funding come from road users, then we pass entirely on being able to capture back any of the development value, or other value created by roads.

    On the other hand, once you hve determined that a tax or fee is a legitimate source of road funding (like parking fees, maybe) and you assess the fee on that basis then it would be wrong to divert those funds to other purposes.

    Otherwise, if you fund ALL of road work out of direct user fees then what are you going to say to a developer when he can say, “Hey look, road users are fully funding the roads already. I’m already paying through the nose, and so are all my customers. What are you hitting me up for road improvements for?”

    I never said that roads are entitled to carte blanche budgets. but if you are going to have user fees and justify them according to who uses the most, then they need to keep those fees to themselves.

    We need to decide what user fees can realistically produce, recognizing that roads do NOT get a carte blanche, and recognizing that there are other funding requiremnst that have to come out of taxpayer pockets. THEN we can prioritize what road projects we can do and maintain with the money at hand. If we find we can’t do it all,then we need a plan for cutting back even decomissioning some roads if necessary.

    But, to claim that user fees don’t belong to the users, now that’s a nonsequitor.

    That doesn’t mean that other funds are not also appropriate. Neither does it mean that we don’t still have to manage priorities.

    Sure, there is only so much money you can get out of people, even as user fees. There will never be enough to go around, so you have to prioritize.

    However, nothing else gets the deal that roads get, because nothing else pays as much of its own costs, when you get down to it.

    If we had a requirement that parents pay full tuition for schools then they would expect to see that money fully spent on schools. But we don’t – schools and police and may other programs are paid for with funds that are truly general funds. people who provide those funds (who are also 95% auto users) havea right to discuss what the priority should be among those funds.

    If there isn’t enough to go around, and you don;t think more is available from the people, well OK cut back on the road funds and the road taxes, and increase them someplace else.

    But, be transparent about it. Dont just take funds that were raised using the argument road users pay, and then divert those funds someplace else. That’s just dishonest.


  53. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    more bullfeather logic

    more money for roads can be appropriate

    more money for schools can be appropriate

    more money for mental health can be appropriate

    what is wrong with these statements?

    answer: they come from those that think more tax money is “appropriate”

    and speaking of transparency –

    how come when you get your gasoline receipt, it does not break out the taxes like your receipts for food and other purchases is broken out?

    a $35 dollar purchase at $3.50 a gallon ought to show 1.70 for state tax and 1.80 for fed tax and 32 something for gasoline.

    why are these taxes “hidden”?

  54. “how come when you get your gasoline receipt, it does not break out the taxes like your receipts for food and other purchases is broken out?”

    Probably because the consumer didn’t actually pay the tax at the pump (aside from the 2% NOVA gas tax). Instead, the tax was passed along to the consumer after being paid first by the distributor and then the gas station. If we want to be technical about it, Exxon pays $1.9 billion to maintain Virginia’s roads each year — maybe if the oil companies highlighted this, they’d have a more positive public image.

    I’m all for printing those figures on the receipt. That should be done for the same reaon we should eliminate income tax withholding.

  55. Anonymous Avatar

    answer: they come from those that think more tax money is “appropriate”


    Kid of depends on whether the “need” and the ROI is appropriate, doesn’t it?

    Suppose, that I could come up with some real-world example, where I had verifiable data, that showed conclusively, that for every dollar in “new taxes” I raised, that I could save you $5.

    Would you stll call for “No new taxes.”?

    I’ll concede that this is a difficult test. But, assuming I could meet these “impossible” standards, would you still cal for “No new Taxes?”

    How long has he got to be dead, and how much do current conditions have to change, before we let him rest in peace, and move on to solve our own problems?


  56. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: conclusive proof of ROI.

    That would meet my criteria.

    and there ARE some good examples that DO WORK.

    You cannot do this without a process that at least includes performance metrics.

  57. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “no new taxes”

    I’m not in favor of “no new taxes”.

    I think it is a dumb concept but it is supported by those who see no reasonable way nor a willingness to use genuine cost-effectiveness measures so their answer is to just not give more money – period.

    it’s certainly a lot easier concept to maintain that one that advocates using cost-effectiveness measures.

    So the ‘no mo tax’ folks are like Bob. They suspect massive waste and misallocation of resources but they know they can’t force changes that will actually reform the process so they just say “no mo”.

    and it’s not a unused tactic either – it’s pretty much what BOSs do when dealing with uncompromising school boards.

  58. I’ve said repeatedly that an increase in the gas tax — as a last resort for concrete goals — would be acceptable. At the moment, I do not see the need for more money. But a referendum for, say, a 1% gas tax hike in NOVA to expand 66/95/395/495 by two GP lanes that expires when the bond is paid off — would have my vote. (I have no idea if the math works on that)

    I don’t “suspect” massive waste and misallocation of resources, I can point to it. Buses. Rail. Most of all, that Dulles extension boondoggle. We have 95% of the public being pushed around by a handful of loudmouths who ride bicycles to work (running red lights the whole way, I might add) or take the bus. Pouring more money into this broken system is a recipe for more failure.

    My campaign for governor will begin by putting the NIMBYs in jail and paving over their property.

    I’ll win by a landslide.

  59. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “My campaign for governor will begin by putting the NIMBYs in jail and paving over their property.”

    hey is that how the ICC got approved?

    Bob – tell many how much money is sitting around unspent because NIMBY’s prevented the money from being spent…

    The EPA stops 10 times as many projects as NIMBYs…

  60. We’re not in disagreement. NIMBYs historically have been the enemy of roads (I-66 and I-395 through the District as examples). Today, the EPA is a bigger roadblock. If you don’t have the one, you’d have the other.

    “tell many how much money is sitting around unspent”

    There’s no such thing as unspent money in government. Instead, money that could have been used for roads goes to advertising campaigns, traffic calming, empty buses and similar things that offer no real value to the public.

    Watch this funny video for an example of where motorist money goes. Unfortunately, Virginia media have never heard of investigative journalism, so I don’t have any local examples.

  61. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    geeze Bob…in Virginia we had the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries finance an African Safari with taxpayer money…

    so…. you’re agreeing… about not giving more money to government for roads?

    okay. Now that we’ve settled that… how should we fund new roads?

  62. anonymous Avatar

    “However, nothing else gets the deal that roads get, because nothing else pays as much of its own costs, when you get down to it.”

    I’m amazed I’m still hearing the argument that roads are not paying their fair share. This is the point I was making on the previous “Road vs. Rail” blog. In the DC area, transit, not roads, get the huge subsidies. Here is a repeat of the previous post. DC information is at the bottom.
    If anyone is still interested in rail versus road analysis, Jack Mallinckrodt has the data. The data includes road, light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail, and bus. The bus data doesn’t have bus rapid transit data separated from general bus. The bus numbers on operating expenses look bad, but keep in mind that those numbers include municipal bus services that run buses in low density, low capacity corridors that exist to help lower income and non-drivers get around. A bus rapid transit system in a high capacity, high density corridor would have higher farebox recovery. It is not surprising that the Arizona study showed BRT to be superior to rail transit.

    Randal O’toole has info on the fairly awful performance of light rail in the US.

    If anyone thinks that the Washington DC region doesn’t spend enough money on transit, perhaps they should check the numbers from the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

  63. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think BRT is an interesting critter.

    For instance, in theory, one would think that the same opportunities for TOD would exist for BRT as for fixed rail.

    In fact, the argument could be made that BRT could become the “soft” transit precursor to “hard” rail transit.

    but BRT does not operate that way at all…

    In Fact, BRT in an urbanized setting is basically forced to revert back to ordinary bus service .

    So..I would ask.. is BRT about people or vehicle mobility?

    Can anyone imagine BRT attempting to bring the “benefits” of BRT to downtown NYC?

    but we also know that privately owned SOVs do not “work” in dense urbanscapes either.

    The only kind of SOV that “works” in dense urban-scapes are taxi’s (shared vehicles) and, in fact, we know that in many urban areas, there is a movement to outlaw SOVs because they gridlock mobility for shared vehicles.

    So the argument that congestion is caused by “not enough capacity” means exactly what in a dense urbanscape?

    Is the solution to not enough capacity to expand it until it meets demand – in a cityscape?

    How would you accomplish that in an cityscape unless you built a Robert Moses type elevated freeway – at a cost that would absolutely dwarf he costs of conventional shared-vehicle transit?

    So my point is to show that adding capacity to reduce congestion is not a fail-safe, always-implementable strategy and yet it is the argument de jure about congestion in urbanizing areas.

    so.. we say that BRT is cheaper and more effective than rail transit – but BRT won’t actually “work” in dense urbanscapes but we continue to compare autos to BRT to transit as if there is a menu of options available.

  64. anonymous Avatar

    “In Fact, BRT in an urbanized setting is basically forced to revert back to ordinary bus service.”

    BRT with exclusive easements doesn’t revert to ordinary bus service. Plus ordinary bus service includes bus service in low capacity corridors. You wouldn’t put a BRT system through a low density suburb.

    “So..I would ask.. is BRT about people or vehicle mobility?”

    It’s about people mobility. The Curitiba, Brazil BRT system has twice the ridership of WMATA, both heavy rail and bus combined. BRT is also about not spending billions on rail capital costs.

    “anyone imagine BRT attempting to bring the “benefits” of BRT to downtown NYC?”

    New York isn’t a good example. New York, specifically Manhattan, is the best example of a U.S. city that has enough density to justify heavy rail. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a BRT system if you had access to an exclusive easement to compliment the rail system. I’m not suggesting that you could replace the entire NY city subway with a BRT system.

    “so.. we say that BRT is cheaper and more effective than rail transit – but BRT won’t actually “work” in dense urbanscapes but we continue to compare autos to BRT to transit as if there is a menu of options available.”

    BRT isn’t a substitute for heavy rail systems in very dense areas, like New York, Tokyo or Hong Kong. Tysons, Reston and the Dulles Corridor don’t have that level of density. The Tysons-Dulles corridor isn’t dense enough to justify light rail, let alone heavy rail. I think the big mistake in that corridor is the over-emphasis
    on integrating the transit with the existing heavy rail system, and the (questionable) perception that you can’t get middle-class choice riders to ride buses.

    BRT is typically compared to light rail, and typically outperforms light rail. Most U.S. light rail systems don’t have that much ridership, don’t serve very high density areas, and still have the high rail capital costs. Many U.S. light rail systems also run in streets and share capacity with cars.

    “For instance, in theory, one would think that the same opportunities for TOD would exist for BRT as for fixed rail.”

    There is no reason why you
    couldn’t build TOD with with a BRT system. Check out the size of the double-articulated Volvo buses they use in Curitiba. In the U.S., most
    of the smart growth, transit-oriented development advocates are also rail transit advocates. I think they believe that you can’t build TOD without rail, plus they don’t see examples of TOD served by BRT in the U.S.

    Electrified trolley buses are also possible, like the ones in Seattle or San Francisco. The capital cost of the electrical pick-up is small compared to the rail capital cost.


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