Caucusing with “lepers and tramps”

What’s a House Speaker to do when his hometown newspaper gets four-square behind a tax hike? Be prepared for the worst:

Mr. Howell should throw his support to the Senate’s funding ideas–especially the highway-user-paid gas tax–bringing as many GOP delegates as possible with him. This would cost him the speakership, he would have to caucus with lepers and tramps, and Grover Norquist would have kittens. But such a sacrificial move would win him an honorable place in the annals of state governance–and keep faith with the congestion-vexed voters who elected him to improve traffic movement here.

There are far worse things than caucusing with “lepers and tramps.” Caucusing with blinkered editorial page scribblers comes to mind almost immediately. And so does being stuck in an elevator with a freshly botoxed Joan Rivers.

Nevertheless, that the Free Lance-Star believes the only way out of the transportation mess is to shovel more money into a failing system (one that even the paper admits is in need of reform) is not entirely surprising. The press is known for many things, but original thinking rarely, if ever, appears on the list.

But even a plodder can blunder into the truth. Bill Howell expended a great deal of personal political capital getting the regional transportation authorities established. Now that they have been gutted, his response will speak volumes on his ability to think outside of the old tax-and-pave box.

Early indications are that he’s not exactly too eager to explore any other alternatives. If so, that might just mean he is destined to lead a caucus of lepers and tramps…in the minority. (cross-posted at Tertium Quids)


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  1. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    If Grover Norquist has kittens, put those beasts down at once! We need no more of Satan’s spawn on Earth!

  2. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    The system needs more money, and it has to come from somewhere.

    The system needs to be improved, too. Whether it is presently a total failure, is a mattero f opinion. Whatever degree of reforms are required has nothing to do with the fact that it needs more money.

    The regional transprotation authorities were gutted because they were fundamentally dishonest in that they attempted to divert responsibility for raising taxes. One way or another, whatever misleading names get pasted on them, raising taxes is going to be the result.

  3. Groveton Avatar

    Sorry – last entry had too many typos – even for me.

    Here it is cleaned up:

    Anon 9:56 has it right.

    The gas tax was last raised in 1987?

    C’mon guys, that was 21 years ago.

    The easy, simple, honest answer is to raise the gas tax.

    I agree that there are a lot of long term changes that can and should be made. But when a man staggers into the emergency room clutching his chest you don’t begin lecturing him on the merits of a high fiber, low fat diet – no matter how good that advice might ultimately be.

    Norm – I am intereted to hear your alternative to more money through higher taxes.

  4. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    As I’ve proposed on several occasions, raise the gas tax, but only if coupled with an adequate public facilities law with teeth.

    Somehow, I think that nothing has changed — we approve development without regard to the sufficiency of infrastructure and then demand people pay higher taxes.

    Virginia needs the initiative, recall and referendum.

    TMT

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here is the issue that is being refused to be understood that folks who say they are truly interested in sustainable funding ANSWERs need to get their minds around (excerpts):

    “Flat Pa. gasoline tax revenues may take toll on state finances

    MARK SCOLFORO

    The Associated Press

    HARRISBURG, Pa. – The transportation funding debate is headed for a showdown over how the state’s massive needs should be funded , by adding tolls to Interstate 80 and increasing them on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, or by leasing the turnpike, which also would increase its tolls.

    The tolling plans have completely taken off the table the idea of any new gas taxes.

    Just 16 months ago, an 11.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax was how Gov. Ed Rendell’s transportation funding commission proposed generating much of the $1.7 billion a year it said was needed to maintain roads, fix bridges and underwrite mass transit.

    But a bleak future for gasoline tax revenues was a central part of the argument that House Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon, has been making in defense of last summer’s I-80 tolling law.

    …..

    State tax revenues increased by nearly 50 percent over the past decade, but the liquid fuels tax used to build and maintain roads saw growth of barely half that rate.

    Taxable gallons, the state Revenue Department’s measure of gasoline sales, have been falling, down from 5.2 billion in 2004-05 to just about 5 billion in 2006-07.

    Vehicle miles traveled edged downward last year in Pennsylvania and nationally, a rare decrease that brings memories of oil shortage from the ’70s and early ’80s.

    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s system of 59 automatic counters registered a decrease in traffic of 0.13 percent in 2007. Preliminary national estimates from the Federal Highway Administration show traffic was down 0.4 percent last year, and down by nearly 4 percent in December compared to December 2006.

    “With high gas prices, it’s almost natural that people are starting to make decisions about how to cope with that,” said PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick.

    Pennsylvanians currently pay state taxes of 32.3 cents a gallon for gasoline , a liquid fuels tax of 12 cents, an oil company franchise tax that is indexed to the wholesale price, and a storage tank fee of 1.1 cents. It is the nation’s fourth-largest such tax, according to the Tax Foundation.

    McCall said he is convinced that tolls are the wave of the future, and not just in Pennsylvania.

    “I won’t be here when it all happens, I’m sure, but I think the trend will be to move to tolls and away from gas taxes,” McCall predicted.

    Pennsylvania’s most recent gasoline tax increase was in 1997, when a 3.5-cent levy pushed by Gov. Tom Ridge squeaked through the Legislature.

    In Virginia, a nickel-a-gallon increase, phased in over five years, passed the state Senate last month but stalled in the House. About that time, the Minnesota Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to impose an 8.5-cent, phased-in increase, along with a $25 tax credit to lessen the impact on lower-income people.

    Some recent studies have suggested the gas tax will remain a viable way to raise revenue for the next 15 years, said Jack Basso with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Washington. But the longer-term outlook is far from clear, and $4-a-gallon gas could change the landscape in a hurry.

    “Nobody really has a good economic study about the point at which people really start cutting back,” Basso said, “but I suspect that may be getting close to it.”

    Tolls currently make up only about 6 percent of states’ transportation revenues, he said. But, in a sign of the future, half of the money to build new roads and additional lanes is coming from tolls.”

    http://www.philly.com/philly/wires/ap/news/state/pennsylvania/20080308_ap_flatpagasolinetaxrevenuesmaytaketollonstatefinances.html

    my attitude about this is that the folks who say they are interested in sustainable funding solutions – are either unaware of or refuse to believe what the Pennsylvania legislature – has recognized…

    .. and the simple reality is this – the gas tax ONLY WORKED when cars got crappy mileage and fuel was cheap…

    … the gas tax is no longer .. the sustainable funding source that it used to be…

    .. if Virginia and Bill Howell and others in the GA … REALLY want to deal with the issue.. then the first step is understanding that the answer is not in raising the gas tax…

    other sources of revenue have to be considered..

    and .. here’s a News FLASH.. take a look at the funding streams in the TA legislation in terms of how much of those streams are on gasoline and how much is on things other than gasoline…

    capishe?

    thoughts?

  6. Norman Leahy Avatar
    Norman Leahy

    What would a penny gas tax hike deliver — roughly $50 million per year?

    The Senate has, I think, proposed a penny a year for five years.

    Inflation will eat up those monies quite handily. And even if it doesn’t, the resulting monies will not cover the needed items or wish lists of folks in and out of government.

    What I would greatly prefer to see is triage — set priorities for road construction/repair and deal with them based upon which projects do the most to ease congestion.

    But I don’t see those lists. Rather, I see enormous sums of needed monies waved aloft like holy relics. They are meant to cower, not necessarily inform (let alone inspire).

    Speaking for myself, I believe that if the worthies want a gas tax hike, they will get one, though I would dearly love to see them rationalize that in the face of continually rising gas prices (not to mention that higher prices will tend to create more incentives not to drive as much…further depleting any gains from a gas tax increase).

    I’d much prefer a user pays system than a general tax hike. This is the most fair, most rational approach.

    I will also say this: If folks want higher gas taxes, fine — so long as they cut another tax by an equal amount. That re-directs the revenue stream and establishes a much larger budget priority, while also being easy on the average Joe’s wallet.

    Now those negotiations would be worth watching.

  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    I guess it is time to say it again:

    No amount of money, regardless of the source will “solve” the Mobility and Access Cisis given dysfunctional human settlement patterns and reliace on Autonomobiles.”

    See THE PROBLEM WITH CARS.

    EMR

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s a not unrealistic way to think about the idea of one penny generating $50 million dollars.

    How much will that same penny generate five years from now after inflation?

    If we follow past experience.. inflation for highway construction has been going up at around 15% a year but lets just say 10% a year.

    Now that penny is worth $25 million five years from now…

    .. and that is before we predict what price gasoline might be in 5 years and one effect that might have on how many gallons of gasoline people will buy…

    That $25 million could be worth even less.

    Now consider how much one mile of rural interstate costs – about $20 million dollars…

    or an interchange.. they start at 20-30 million each…

    so .. another way of looking at this.. is to consider that for each penny gas tax increase..we might be able to buy 2 miles of rural interstate… five years from now… for the entire state!

    That’s what I think folks have not been taking the required “hard look” at….

    and like I said. if you are a person who says that you are truly interested in SUSTAINABLE funding solutions… for the future.. such that every year.. the GA does not have to go back and revisit transportation funding…

    .. then put something on the table … in terms of a viable funding sources…

    otherwise.. some (myself included) will .. conclude.. that we have much talk.. and not much real.. understanding or commitment to actually accomplish something…

    and as our friends on the right side of the aisle in Congress say: “…and that’s the way it is”.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    and a question for EMR…

    suppose the technology for SOLAR/WIND or just plain Nukes comes online at about the same time that battery technology produces a car that can travel 30 miles on electricity….

    what say you about mobility and access with that kind of auto?

  10. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    At 12:30 PM Larry Gross asked:

    “and a question for EMR…

    “suppose the technology for SOLAR/WIND or just plain Nukes comes online at about the same time that battery technology produces a car that can travel 30 miles on electricity….

    “what say you about mobility and access with that kind of auto? [Autonomobile]”

    Larry:

    You know the answer to that question but since there are three more PARTS to THE PROBLEM WITH CARS yet to be put on line, I will put in a quick reply.

    With dysfunctional settlement patterns and Large, Private Vehicles there will be no better Mobility and Access than now.

    You did not specify that “coming on line” would mean these forms of energy would be cheaper, and that implies that they would just generate more energy to fill the void of depleated petrochemicals.

    Wind, solar, wave and other “renewable” sources are location-constrained. If converted to electricity they are very ineffecient to move.

    The US of A now wastes 50% of all energy put into electrical production now on generation, transmission and distribution.

    Without vast reductions in the cost, reliance on these sources of energy will widen the wealth gap and thus threatening democracy and market economies.

    With vast reductions in size, weight and speed of vehicles along with vast increses in the sharing of vehicle, there could be some imporvement from the technologies you list but only if there is Fundamental Change in human settlement patterns.

    To maintain anything like the current lifestyles over the next two or three decades we would have had to start the Fundamental Change in 1973.

    It is not a pretty picture.

    EMR

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I can be pretty thick at times so tell me if I’ve got this right.

    The rising cost of energy without changes in settlement patterns will:

    1. – eventually cause haves and have nots.. resulting in discrete classes of people defined by their ability/inability to afford “enough” power

    2. – more technology, especially technologies that enable more efficient use of energy..and more efficient “harvesting” of wind/solar/tides won’t – in the end – reduce the cost of energy sufficiently to head off the problems in 1.

    3. – EVERYONE.. not just the “under” classes will have to agree – as a society – to adopt more efficient settlement patterns if we are to have an equitable sharing of available energy…

    4. – what happened with the cost of computers/cellphones/etc… in terms of them starting out very expensive and not available to those with modest incomes… and ending up virtually universally available to all … will not happen with energy…

    wrong? right? not on this planet in terms of understand?

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Larry:

    There are many more — and some more profound things — you could glean from our post but 1 thru 3 are more or less correct.

    On 4., you may have noticed that:

    You cannot step into your cell phone or your computer and get to all the places that need or want to go, especially because of the dysfunctional scatteration.

    They may speed up getting things but they do not reduce the weight and distance that what one needs to eat, drink and enjoy life is shipped.

    While some things use less energy, each of us has many more things and thus per capita our energy consumption has not gone down. Especially for the 12 1/2 percenters, energy consumption per capita is far higher.

    Energy consumption devices have gone down in price but most energy production and distribution devises (aside from low voltage producers that are tied to a specific site) have gone up in price.

    No matter how you spin it, it is not a pretty picture.

    EMR

  13. Groveton Avatar

    Larry:

    You are confusing two different issues in my opinion – road cost inflation and funding source.

    “If we follow past experience.. inflation for highway construction has been going up at around 15% a year but lets just say 10% a year.”.

    Irrelevent with regard to funding source.

    “How much will that same penny generate five years from now after inflation?”.

    Irrelevent with regard to funding source.

    “Taxable gallons, the state Revenue Department’s measure of gasoline sales, have been falling, down from 5.2 billion in 2004-05 to just about 5 billion in 2006-07.”.

    Relevent but insignificant. Taxable gallons fell 3.8% in 2 years. Or, a bit under 2% per year.

    A hike in the gas tax will not cure “world hunger”. However, it will generate some needed money while we pursue alternative energy, new human settlement patterns, new governance structures, etc.

    Perfect is the enemy of good. Right now, I’ll settle for good.

    Norm – User pays is fine by me. In some ways a gas tax is a form of user pays – no? I’ll grant that the gas tax does not differentiate between expensive roads and cheap roads. However, the expensive roads are in urban and suburban locations with relatively high population densities. So, those roads serve more cars which, in turn, buy more gas and pay more gas taxes – no?

    The Pennsylvania tolling proposal is less “user pays” than gas taxes are “user pays”. At least it seems that way to me. They are talking about Interstate 80 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That’s two roads! How is taxing / tolling two roads in order to pay for the rest of the roads a “user pays” system? The only users who are paying are the users of those two roads.

    This is yet another illustration of why Virginia’s Dillon Rule philosophy does not work. Every jurisdiction in Virginia has drivers, roads, road maintenance costs and road construction costs. But the toll plans do not envision charging everybody a toll. Only those relative few who drive on “congested” roads where the cost of the tolling infrastructure can be justified by the volume of vehicles.

    In my opinion, the road maintenance and construction costs should be defined by region and the regions should decide how to pay for their road costs. If Henrico County wants to raise the gas tax and Fairfax County wants to implement tolls – why should the state legislature care? If NoVA wants to tax gas a lot in order to pay for more mass transit – why should the state legislature care?

    The folly in this whole debate is not that people are using less gas, it’s that the state legislature is looking for a “one size fits all” solution to a problem that varies widely by region.

    Side note to EMR – Supercapitalism may not become a best seller but Reich sold (at least) one more copy of his book today. I expect to make a business trip to/from San Jose this week which should give me time to read the book. Thanks for the tip.

  14. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Isn’t the relative price of energy more important than the absolute price?

    We are seeing a rapid escalation in energy prices, fueled to an extent by commodities speculation (more making money without producing anything of value). But, in any event, prices will rise. But that doesn’t mean we can never see breakthroughs in energy technology. There are many untaped sources of energy. For example, I’ve been informed that the energy created by stopping a metrorail car is sufficient to start it moving again. Let’s not give up.

    EMR’s model simply will not work in a large area, such as WDC. There are two many options for jobs, housing and commerce to expect people can and will live where or near they work, shop and recreate. Moreover, absent job security, the turnover factor is simply too great to expect unity of home and job. EMR’s model would work better in Washington, PA than in Washington, D.C. Or in Fairfax, Minnesota, rather than in Fairfax, Virginia.

    TMT

  15. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    At 4:49 TMT said:

    “EMR’s model simply will not work in a large area, such as WDC.”

    I did not know I had a model but thank you.

    I have no idea what “WDC” is.

    “There are two many options for jobs, housing and commerce to expect people can and will live where or near they work, shop and recreate.”

    If you expet the next 35 years to be like the last 35 that may be true.

    “Moreover, absent job security, the turnover factor is simply too great to expect unity of home and job.”

    See above.

    “EMR’s model would work better in Washington, PA than in Washington, D.C. Or in Fairfax, Minnesota, rather than in Fairfax, Virginia.”

    Is “WDC” Washington, D.C. If so do you mean just the Federal District or are you taking about the National Capital Subregion?

    Lets just say that over the next few decades the organic components of the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region will look and function more like Washington PA, Fairfax, MN or Warrenton, MO. If we are very lucky.

    Otherwise it will be more like components of the Dhaka New Urban Region.

    EMR

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Let me give a gas tax example.

    Let’s say you drive a vehicle every day 200 miles a week and it gets about 20 mpg.

    so once a week, you put 10 gallons of gas in the car.. and you pay about $3.50 in gas tax on top of the $30+ bucks at three-something a gallon.

    so the times comes to replace your car… and gasoline is looming at $4 or better.. in the time period that you will own that next car.

    So.. you think – I need to get a car that gets better mileage… maybe 30 mpg… or perhaps even a hybrid that gets 40 or 50 mpg.

    Now when you fill up, you will pay about 3.35 in gas tax – 25 cents less than you did before for the same tank of fuel.

    Now.. if order for the state to JUST BREAK EVEN on the gas tax revenue on your new car, they’d have to raise the tax a least a nickel a gallon.

    so .. are you starting to get the drift here?

    re: tolls on some roads to pay for all roads..

    yup.. that’s what they are thinking… it’s as inequitable (and more) than the way they do it now but the states are getting so desperate .. that they are doing all kinds of dumb things.. like abuser fees and such.

    finally, let me point out.. that the Va GA .. COULD have given NoVa the OPTION to implement a much higher gas tax – all legal – within the existing law .. because it would be “local option” (like the VRE gas tax)….

    but they did not… and instead offered essentially a Chinese laundry “menu” of taxes…. basically “spreading” the revenue stream across more than one source.

    Why did they do this?

    Why not just let NoVa raise the region’s gas tax by 5 or 10 cents without all these other taxes?

    I think the reason is .. that the higher the price of gasoline.. the more than people will switch over to better mileage cars..or change their commute… carpool/transit.. etc.. .. i.e. the gas tax is not a long-term sustainable source of funding…

    and the NoVa transportation funding issue would land back in their laps….

    I think they intended to put together a more sustainable source of funding that would remain steady no matter what happens to the price of gas or folks using strategies to buy less gas (and pay less gas tax).

  17. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    A penny a gallon gas tax is thinking way too small. It might need to be 50 cents a gallon.

    Or, you can raise the same money via tolls and pretend it isn’t a new tax.

    Since the tolls are not universal,they will put a higher burden on a smaller set of people.

    Raising the gas tax will encourage people to drive more economical vehicles, and that is part of the point. But there is a limit: cars do not get infinite mileage.

    The idea that people will drive less to avoid the gas tax is a little like saying they will earn less to avoid income taxes. At the margin it makes sense, sometimes, but mostly you do what you have to do.

    At some level,there is a gas (fuel) tax that is viable for the long term. People who don’t want it realize that tolls will likely affect someone else, the major commuters: tax the guy behind the tree. Maybe we eventually have some universal tolling system, and we can switch over from the gas tax, but right now the gas tax is a lot better than a hodgepodge of unrelated fees.

    But in the meantime, saying the gas tax won’t work doesn’t cut it. We don’t have anything else. If we did have something else, it would have to raise just as much money as the gas tax, so what you call it or how you collect it is just details.

    First you have to agree that the money is needed, that it can be spent to good advantage, and that it is available somehow. EMR says you cannot spend the money to good advantage without changing the entire pattern of settlement. Some people burned down mansions in Washington State last week. The GA is trying to avoid responsibility for raising the money, but they seem to admit it is at least needed. The people who burned down the mansions will try to avoid responsibility, too.

    Some people will move forward and try to get things accomplished. Look at it this way:

    Unless we have a gas tax now, we won’t have enough money to make the switch to some other system.

    RH

  18. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “an adequate public facilities law with teeth.”

    The problem with this is that an Adequate public facilities law is frequently used to just deny growth by denying facilities. APF with teeth would have to mean there is some trigger for actually providing the facilities, otherwise it is just a misnomer for no more growth.

    RH

  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “A penny a gallon gas tax is thinking way too small. It might need to be 50 cents a gallon.”

    I’d agree that in “theory” there is a level below which can be defined as the point beyond which blood can be expected from a turnip.

    Let’s pretend that you are a politician.

    Polls show that 25% of people support a nickel or a dime gas tax increase and about 50% would choose tolls over taxes. and 75% think they already pay too much for roads that they have “already paid for”.

    Let’s pretend further that you’re a party leader in Richmond that DOES believe in raising the gas tax.

    Give me a realistic number.

    Give me a number that is likely to make it through the GA.

    THAT’s the number you should treat as reasonable and in my mind, 50 cents is about 40 cents too optimistic.

    So.. take that dime and tell me what you’re going to accomplish with it.

    We’re already a nickel short on funding maintenance.. so basically, you’ve got a nickel to work with….

    It’s true that tolls are a bit.. perhaps a lot like the abuser fees.. that the public has some sort of a fuzzy idea that some road (that they don’t travel on) will get tolled…

    the HOT lanes plan is JUST starting to seep into folks minds that it is much more than some musings from some mentally defective.. that they are actually “real”.. and WILL more than likely be a toll that they will pay.

    And politics being what they are – until those new lanes actually open … there could be an uprising.. and the HOT lanes end up just like the abuser fees…

    in the meantime.. back at the ranch.. tell me again.. a viable way that the public WILL ACCEPT for more roads….

    if you still believe 50 cents a gallon is the way to go.. you’re certainly welcome to your opinion.. but methinks you’re in the minority.. a tad…

    let’s hazard a guess that just maybe.. you’re wrong…

    what is your ‘plan b’ ?

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”APF with teeth would have to mean there is some trigger for actually providing the facilities”

    yup…

    they’re called proffers…

    take away the proffers..

    and they’re called rezone denials..

    Actually, I hope the home builders get their way.. it could lead directly to repeal of the Dillion Rule in Va.

  21. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    EMR – WDC was meant to cover the entire metropolitan Washington area in D.C., VA, MD and probably WV.

    Ray – if we stopped building in Fairfax County, it would still take us years — decades — to build the infrastructure necessary to support today’s population. Development without adequate public facilities represents a government-sponsored attack on existing residents’ income, property and quality of life.

    TMT

  22. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Anyone notice that NoVa continues to create jobs and traffic is a problem because??? 240,000 new jobs and 500,000 new residents since 2000 or so can’t be wrong, plus they voted AGAINST regional taxes in 2002!!!

  23. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    TMT:

    I sympathize with your position

    But

    “…”APF with teeth would have to mean there is some trigger for actually providing the facilities”

    yup…

    they’re called proffers…”

    This is total BS, and you know it.

    Proffers big enough to provide adequate public facilities would be proffers big enough to stop all construction.

    I can even prove you know it, because you said so.

    “if we stopped building in Fairfax County, it would still take us years — decades — to build the infrastructure necessary to support today’s population. “

    Which is exactly why I say it is unreasonable for existing residents to wish to put the entire burden on newcomers and developers: they have not been paying their own way for decades.

    Adequate Public Facilities is a political mismoniker for something that means just the opposite of what it says.

    As such, it is dishonest to start with. On top of that, it is wrong besides.

    I’d like to be able to support what it pretends to be, but under the current circumstances, it turns my stomach.

    RH

  24. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Anonymous 9:29.

    There are plenty of places that would love to have the jobs and the traffic.

    Maybe that’s why they are trying to choke NOVA to death.

    RH

  25. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    what is your ‘plan b’ ?

    Plan b is to have an adequate gas tax until we get some other uniform system working.

    Excessive tolls on some to support others is not an option. It is just the same as those protesting hiking fees in the national forest.
    “Hey, you are charging us to hike in our own forest that we already paid for.”

    Only they haven’t, or haven’t paid enough.

    It is the same as what TMT said about NOVA infrastructure. “Why should we pay for the new guys, we already paid enough.

    Except they haven’t.

    It is the same as the gated communities or country clubs charging “initiation fees” to keep present members costs down.

    Because they aren’t footing the current bills.

    ——————————-

    What do you think the gas tax is in Europe, and why do you think our costs are any different. How bad do things have to get before we decide we need to raise taxes?

    At the beginning of the great depression the top marginal tax rate was 25%. When raising it was brought up, some wealthy individuals actually tried to instigate a coup. By the end of the depression the top tax rate was79%.

    What is the additional cost of waiting? Let’s face it, the ONLY reason tolls are acceptable now is just as you say: many people think they won’t get stuck. They are going to get stuck anyway. Tolls won’t relieve congestion, won’t relieve pollution, will cost more to collect, will divert badly needed funds to private profits, will charge more to the very people who enjoy the worst service, and if they work they will cost even more than the gas tax. And, they are attacking the wrong problem.

    Jay Leno said, you won’t be able to afford to drive to the job you are about to lose, so you can pay for the hoouse you can’t afford which has lost most of its value.

    So, what happens to the HOT lanes profits, if enough people are desperate enough to car pool and fill them for free?

    How many HOT lanes would you have to open to raise as much spendable state revenue as a penny in gas tax?

    If the gas tax had just been pegged at per dollar instead of per gallon, how much would it have already gone up since 1987?

    I agree the gas tax is political poison. The alternative is public suicide. The only bright side is that if the economy is bad enough we won’t need to drive as much, and then we can “afford” to wait.

    RH

  26. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “The fact that dwellings near METRO stations and otherwise “well located” have held their value is a good indicatior “

    That is great. Good for them.

    Now, how much of their value is due to location near METRO?

    How much did they pay for METRO relative to those that also paid for METRO and got no benefit, or almost no benefit?

    Aren’t they scrounging their neighbors property just as much as those that want to have the benefits of preventing development without paying for it?

    If we want our nighbors to be stewards of the land, then we should pay to have stewards, otherwise we’ve got slaves.

    If we want a metro station in our basement, then we should be willing to pay our full locational costs, and not expect those without the benefit to pay it for us.

    Those 35+ services (that don’t really exist) are damn near free by comparison.

    RH

  27. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “The folly in this whole debate is not that people are using less gas, it’s that the state legislature is looking for a “one size fits all” solution to a problem that varies widely by region. “

    Yes, but the costs and the benefits already vary widely by region as well.

    What region provides the most funds to the state? What region has the least congested roads?

    RH

  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Which is exactly why I say it is unreasonable for existing residents to wish to put the entire burden on newcomers and developers: they have not been paying their own way for decades.”

    Okay fine.. but then if the existing residents are going to pay to catch up the infrastructure then it’s also their choice on how much they want to pay extra every year to do that and essentially how many years it will take to catch up the infrastructure.

    See.. what you’re advocating is that not only do the existing folks pay but they have to pay a lot right away so that the infrastructure is caught up right way.. so that more folks can move in without paying proffers so that the existing residents will have to pay even more to stay even once they’ve caught up.

    See.. your plan has one huge flaw and that is that as long as people can vote.. they will throw out of office the folks who espouse your “solution”.

    The only way your idea “works” is if the “solution” can be imposed on existing property owners who would have no recourse but to pay or move.

    In other words.. you would need/want a dictatorship to enforce what you think is fair.

    In other words… it would not matter how many existing property owners thought.. was fair..you would tell them what was fair..

    See.. this is just like your fifty cent gas tax.

    I keep asking you for REALISTIC solutions to move forward and you keep coming up with stuff that is off-the-planet in terms of feasibility.

    How about proposing something that is realistic?

  29. Groveton Avatar

    Ray is on a roll here:

    “Plan b is to have an adequate gas tax until we get some other uniform system working.”.

    Exactly.

    “If the gas tax had just been pegged at per dollar instead of per gallon, how much would it have already gone up since 1987?”.

    Exactly. Kind of like the sales tax and the income tax, etc. etc.

    “What region provides the most funds to the state? What region has the least congested roads?”.

    Exactly. An income statement by region. Then, and only then, a debate about fairness.

    “Maybe that’s why they are trying to choke NOVA to death.”>

    Maybe. However, the geniuses who might want to choke NoVA better start thinking about the jobs moving to Maryland (easy), DC (easy), California / Texas (lots of electoral votes), etc. This philosophy (if true) would be indicitive of Virginia’s political incompetence. Clowns in Virginia plot the demise of NoVA and end up with nothing. Then, they can blame poor soil and the Civil War for Virginia’s further fall from prominenece.

  30. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “so that more folks can move in without paying proffers “

    I never said without paying ANY proffers.

    You are right. It isn”t any more realistic than the fifty cent gas tax. but what is real is that what they have been doing (or rather not doing) since 1987 isn’t realistic, either.

    We have deferred our true costs for decades, and now we want to put an UNDUE portion on the back of newcomers. Some of that will be done by denying owners the right to improve their property. (Providing us with more customers, more taxes, and more options. We all like options, right?)

    Everytime we do that, we are effectively borrowing money from them. We are denying them because we percieve some benefit to ourselves. And that is a benefit we are unwilling to pay for.

    And, we may not even get the benefit we think we are getting. Jim Bacon would argue that such denials really just deny ourselves the chance at “better” patterns of habitation.

    ——————————

    Fifty cents isn’t off the planet in terms of feasibility. Europe does it. We can think small and say everything is unrealistic and unfeasible, or we can think big and make it happen. We could even make universal tolls happen instead of gas tax, if we choose to make it feasible.

    But it is going to take a lot of money to do it. Any way you get it, whatever you call it, its a tax.

    RH

  31. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    What I suggest is that we stop arguing about what is fair, and instead have a discussion about how to decide what is fair. Right now, it’s just a question of who can scream the loudest and has the most votes. Whether it is the truth or not – whether it is equitable or not.

    RH

  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Groveton:

    take the annual VDOT budget of 4 billion dollars and divide it by 7 million people (the population of Virginia)…

    4,000,000,000 / 7,000,000 = $571.43

    now multiply that per capita number times the population of NoVa

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Virginia

    do the math…

    571.43 x 2,432,823 =
    $1,390,188,046

    Now go to the Virginia portion of the MPO TIP for NoVa:

    2008 Total = $3,484.4 (millions)

    http://www.mwcog.org/clrp/projects/tip/fy0812tip/DRAFT_FY_0813_TIP.pdf

    I’d say that NoVa is getting quite a bit MORE than their share…

    of course.. 2009, 2010 and the years beyond look pretty sad…

    IN PARTICULAR – look at the amount of Federal and State funding for the ‘out’ years of 2009-2013.

    Fed money for 2008 = 1.5 Billion
    Fed money for 2013 = 311 million

    This is why the TA is so critical for NoVa.

  33. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Run those figures again only with a weighted average of income or taxes paid included.

    Your argument actually plays right into Groveton’s hand.

    NOVA provides what, 42% of all state income?

    RH

  34. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    I meant state revenue, not income.

    And remember real estate taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes also support road funding. Where do you suppose most of that comes from?

    RH

  35. Groveton Avatar

    Larry:

    NoVA may be getting more than their share of transportation funds. However:

    1. I think you have to look at all costs and all tax revenues – not just transportation.

    2. Where in your calculation do you compute the taxes paid by residents of NoVA? As I understand your calculation, you first set a per capita budget based on total VDOT budget divided by total Virginia population. Then, you allocate NoVA’s share by looking at VDOT spend in NoVA versus NoVA population. You conclude that NoVA gets more than its per capita share of the VDOT budget. No doubt true. However, you never asnwer the question as to whether NoVA pays more than its share of the taxes used by VDOT. No? If NoVA commuters spend forever in traffic jams they also buy more gas per capita than elsewhere. Therefore, they pay more of the gas tax. Do I have this right?

    I’d also suggest that the Republicans in the audience think this through. Alienating people with New Urban Regions will push the votes to the party that does not alienate these people. As Republicans call for no new taxes and the traffic jams continue the voters in the NUR start thinking that the Republicans “just don’t get it”. The Democrats say there must be more taxes collected. While nobody wants to pay more in taxes the Democrats seem to have an answer (short term, at least). They say – roads are underfunded, gas tax has not been raised in 21 years, therefore, we need to raise the gas tax and improve the roads. The Republicans say nothing. They hate tax increases but offer only vague talk of reducing the size of government, etc. However, when elected, they never actually shrink government. In fact, it seems to grow faster under Republican leadership than under Democratic leadership. They talk about functional patterns of human settlement but never seem to have any specific ideas as to how these new patterns can be implemented.

    So, as people living within the NURs sit in traffic they hear candidates from the Democatic Party give a tough message – we need higher taxes to pay for higher costs. And they hear the candidates from the Republican Party with no plan whatsoever – government should miraculously shrink and then everything will be fine.

    As the traffic jams get worse and worse – guess which party gets more and more of the NUR votes?

    And as a higher percentage of the population lives within the NUR – guess which party starts to dominate the political landscape?

    The sun is setting on the Virginia Republican Party. It may not yet be dark but it is dusk.

    One of the best things for the Republican Party would be an effective regional Transportation Authority. If implemented, they could say that they have given the responsibility and authority to the regions. They could mumble something like “government closer to the governed works better than government further from the governed”. While this, in and of itself, would solve nothing – it would push the biggest problem out of the GA without the state-wide Republicans having to overtly raise taxes (although this will be the inevitable consequence of regional transportation authorities).

    Right now, the Republican Party is well on its way to creating Gov. Moran. And that will be a debacle of epic proportions.

  36. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Actually.. what I did…

    was :

    1. -calculate the per capita allocation of the VDOT annual budget – which INCLUDES.. Fed, State gas tax, 1/2% sales tax AND some dedicated General Revenues

    2. – then I went and found out what the population of NoVa is.. about 2.4million..

    3. – then I multiplied the per capita VDOT number times the population in NoVa

    4. – THEN.. I went to the document that shows the Total Transportation Spending for NoVA – which is the Virginia Portion of the TIP (Transportation Improvement Program).

    The sole purpose of the exercise was to see if NoVa was getting back ..in transportation funding what their citizens pay in gas, sales and income taxes

    .. and they do.. at least this year…

    but it does appear in the out years that NoVa will get shortchanged…

    UNLESS.. the projected numbers indicate a fall-off in Fed and State gas tax receipts…

    Now.. if folks want to expand out the discussion to include OTHER taxes in terms of NoVa being a net donor/recipient.. that’s fine..but it strays from the core discussion about what NoVa spends on transportation.

    … it’s true that the school funding issue disadvantages NoVa but I don’t think it has any “legs” on the transportation funding issue in the GA…

    The papers today are saying that HR/TW legislators are supporting a 1 % sales tax for transportation for that region.

    I thought ..that… that was what those guys rejected in 2002…

    so.. either attitudes are changing in HR/TW or their elected are playing suicidal political games..

  37. Groveton Avatar

    Larry:

    I guess I am clueless but your approach does not seem to allow for differences in taxes paid. Let me make a ridiculous example as a way of understanding your methodology. Let’s assume that I personally pay all the federal gas tax, state gas tax and all sales taxes in Virginia. I live in NoVA. Would that alter your analysis of this issue?

    VDOT would still get the same amount of money.

    Virginia would still have the same population.

    NoVA would still have the same population.

    I think that VDOT would still allocate the same amount of transportation money to NoVA. But maybe this is where I have gone astray.

    So – if I personally paid 100% of the taxes used to fund tranportation would that change your analysis?

  38. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “The sole purpose of the exercise was to see if NoVa was getting back ..in transportation funding what their citizens pay in gas, sales and income taxes

    .. and they do.. at least this year…”

    Groveton is right. You can’t determine this with the information you use. It assumes that the per capita VDOT number is paid equally by everyone in the state, which is far from true. You would have to assume that the taxes paid are more or less related to the amount earned.

    Try it again and weight the amount paid by population and average income per county.

    RH

  39. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Think of it this way.

    Someone gets on the road for a reason, to buy or sell something, as a general rule. NOVA roads are highly congested, but they also buy and sell far more stuff than the rest of the state.

    Therefore, roads in NOVA have a higher ROI to the state as far as revenue produced goes. They get a lot more use, per hour, and probably a lot more sales per use. It ought to be worth more to the state to invest more in NOVA, than is some low use low revenue place.

    Now consider the logic behind a HOT lane.

    Someone gets on the road for a reason, as before, and he has some utility value for his trip. Say it is ten dollars per trip: if the trip costs more than that, then he has lost what he figures is his value or profit for the trip.

    We set the toll on the HOT lane at $12. So if there is a guy out there whose utility is more than 12 dollars, then we get his 12 dollars in tolls and we get the taxes from whatever he went on that trip to buy or sell, because his trip was still worth it to him.

    But, we lose ALL or substantially all of the trips for everyone whose utility value is smaller. So we don’t get their tolls or congestion, but we don’t get the urpose of their trip, either, or the revenue that derives from it.

    HOT lanes migh cost you more than you collect from them.

    RH

  40. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: computing per capita revenues

    on average..

    does the average Virginian pay approximately the same in gasoline, sales and income taxes taxes as a Northern Virginian?

    Probably not.

    Certainly not in sales tax if one assumes that higher income folks will spend more …

    then .. it’s not even so simple as comparing NoVa average driver miles with RoVa average driver miles because of the commuting patterns that transcend NoVa boundaries.

    There IS a formula that VDOT uses.. just as convoluted and weird as the formula for schools in it’s own separate way…

    Groveton -this is another reason you need to get on the stick with your data vault idea…

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “HOT lanes migh cost you more than you collect from them”

    let me guess.. you’re going to provide a before and after economic study that proves that HOT lanes reduce GNP.. right?

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    I don’t think you get it at all.

    A trip not made at rush hour – for some purpose is NOT a trip NEVER made…

    it’s a trip deferred.. or it’s 3 trips combined into one trip that does 3 things instead of 1 thing per trip.

    It’s efficiency.

    It’s why two friends decide to share a car trip rather than drive separately.

    If I believe you.. every time two folks decide to go somewhere in one car instead of two – you count that as an economic loss…

    and it’s really only a loss if you believe that maximum consumption is the best economy and anything less than that done for efficiency actually harms the economy.

    I see now why you’re not in favor of peak hour pricing…

    you see more efficiency as the enemy of more consumption…

  42. Groveton Avatar

    People who make more money should pay more taxes. They should pay more dollars and should pay a higher rate. People with more money should contribute more than they receive so that those with less money can receive more than they contribute.

    I am fine with all that. If that means Fairfax County pays more than it gets back – fine. If that means I pay more then I get back – also fine. As EMR says, the Pope now considers excessive wealth accumulation a mortal sin. Maybe the GA is just trying to give NoVA a fighting chance to get into heaven.

    All I want is an honest accounting. How much is paid by city / county (legal entities, EMR) and how much goes back. If it’s relatively fair – I’ll shut up. But the more opaque the process is the less confidence I have that it’s fair.

    EMR – A suggestion. When you learn a new language the teacher does not just hand you a dictionary and say, “All the words are in this book”. Instead, the teacher starts with basic words and phrases and expands after they are learned. Is there a “Top 10” set of clear words that should be learned first?

    Larry – Work is getting in the way of my database project. That and getting Bacon to agree to run it. Given my recent debates with Jim over the reasons for Virginia’s fall from economic grace I should probably not be surprised. ;).

  43. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ….”Maybe the GA is just trying to give NoVA a fighting chance to get into heaven.”

    I really do hope… that in a few weeks or months.. there will be a website that I can visit that will have things like the school and road formulas… and other info that provides better transparency and understanding of how Virginia does business…

    The more information that is available the more citizens can understand and participate in a meaningful way.

    Sometimes it truly is a simple matter of providing a link that goes directly to the info… other times.. it may take some tweaking and fusing of data to produce more information…

    I think … two places that currently deserve “attaboys” is VPAP and Richmond Sunlight.

    VPAP has been working hard to provide more info on lobby folk and more financial info on local elections…

    Richmond Sunlight has been .. in the absence of a willingness of our legislators to take recorded votes in sub-committees and committees has been laboriously capturing video of the deliberations and putting it on the website. From what I understand, it is all consuming chore…

    Slowly but surely the internet is going to open up the legislative and governing process to citizens who want to know.

  44. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “A trip not made at rush hour – for some purpose is NOT a trip NEVER made…”

    Good point. But SOME of them will never be made. Those will be the low value trips that were marginal to begin with. The ones that aren’t worth what the toll costs. They add up.

    “every time two folks decide to go somewhere in one car instead of two – you count that as an economic loss…”

    Not at all. I count it as an economic loss if it turns out to be a false economy. I need to go to the farm store to get something I need to get on with my day. Wife wants to pick up a couple of things. Her couple of things turns out to have difficulties of some kind and I blow the whole day. I would have been better off to take a separate car.

    I definitely do not believe that maximum consumption is the best economy. Unfortunately, it does generally result in the most cash flow.

    Ultimately, the best economy will be the best sustainable economy. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it will be anywhere near as robust as the one we have now. It will support fewer people at a lower level of subsistence.

    If we are lucky. Otherwise we kill each other off fighting over resources before we get there.

    We don’t know when ultimately will happen.

    “you see more efficiency as the enemy of more consumption…”

    Nope, never said that. True Efficiency is the engine of consumption. Home Depot is more efficient than my local hardware, and that enables people to consume more stuff.

    Not all efficiency is true efficiency. A modern racing sailboat is highly efficient. Only problem is that it will work you to death in the process of operating it, when a more normal boat will sail itself.

    I’m not in favor of peak hour pricing simply because I believe it is being oversold, and cannot possibly deliver as promised. It is so obvious to me that it cannot deliver as promised that I have to think the people making the promises have another agenda.

    —————————–

    I believe that roads in NOVA have a higher ROI to the state as far as revenue produced goes, than empty roads do. I believe the HOT lanes will be more empty and deliver less money to the state coffers.

    And I beleive that means the state will ask me for more money sooner.

    They are not a good deal to me, even if I never drive on them.

    RH

  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “efficient than my local hardware, and that enables people to consume more stuff.”

    efficiency is productivity.

    more efficiency = greater productivity

    more efficiency frees money and capital to be used for other purposes.

    something that is truly efficient does not “work you to death”.

    What you have there is maximum speed AT THE EXPENSE of operational efficiency.

    You’re essentially saying that a RACE CARE is an efficient vehicles .. except that it’s not very practical.

    “efficiency” … implies.. sustainability… processes that are not efficient are not inherently sustainable…

    but you also say… “that roads in NOVA have a higher ROI to the state as far as revenue produced goes, than empty roads do.”

    but you won’t have empty roads. The idea of HOT lanes is not to have empty roads but not to have gridlock either – instead to manage for efficiency.

    … and how do we reconcile that
    “congestion is often characterized as ….threatening the economy of NoVa”…ergo the State of Virginia – ergo it’s in the best interests of Virginia not to have gridlock in NoVa?

    There is little room for road expansion in NoVa..so how would you propose to avoid gridlock and enable the road network to be more efficient if NOT with HOT Lanes?

    You’re basically down to trying to better manage what you have.. since major expansions are not physically nor fiscally feasible…unless tolled…

    HOT lanes will also CAPTURE revenues from out-of-jurisdiction users of the NoVa road system that it does not get right now.

    Commuters that buy gas where they live and then commute to NoVa jobs don’t pay a penny for their use of NoVa roads right now. The gas tax money goes to where they live.

    How would you deal with that problem if not with HOT lanes?

  46. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    The racing boat is more efficient because it gets more speed out of the same power (derived from the wind).

    The racing car is NOT more efficient because it gets more speed by consuming more energy.

    One racing car may be more efficient than the next, if it gets more speed for the same energy consumed.

    In the case of race cars, you just put your foot down, and the engine is computer controlled. all the adjustments are made for you.

    The race boat requires that you monitor all the adjustments, to get the most out of it. Another boat may sail itself, but not be able to maintain the same speed.

    So the race boat is more efficient as far as extracting power from the wind is concerned. But that calculationn ignores what it takes out of the operator.

    So, you put an energy measuring device on the two operators or captains, and you find that one covers the distnce with much less effort. He is more efficient, but his boat is less efficient.

    Next, you fill the boats with cargo. The racing boat will still go faster, but not so much because it is loaded down. The other boat can carry a heaver load with less performance loss.

    When you get to destination you figure

    How much did boat cost?
    How long was the trip?
    How much work did I have to do?
    How much could the boat carry?
    What did it sell for?

    Was it worth it?

    Sooo, now, you can compute the efficiency of the entire system.

    You seem to think that if “A” is better, then having more “A” makes everything better. Ignoring everything else.

    ———————————–

    “The idea of HOT lanes is not to have empty roads but not to have gridlock either – instead to manage for efficiency.”

    But, we already know that isn’t what is going to happen. Maximum efficiency (road through put) means something like 35 mph and three car lenghts apart.

    They are going to manage for maximum revenue: charge more for higher speeds and get fewer cars through.

    —————————–

    The HOT lane won’t be empty, but it won’t be as full as it would be at max capacity. Some of the postponed trips will happen and some won’t.

    The loans will be guranteed by the government, which means the people take the risk, and the operator takes the profit.

    It means that people who never use HOT lanes will help pay for those that do. Their business will suffer to help others.

    ——————————–

    “There is little room for road expansion in NoVa..so how would you propose to avoid gridlock and enable the road network to be more efficient if NOT with HOT Lanes?”

    But you DO have empty roads. In order to better manage what you have…

    I’d condemn some downtown office buildings and move them to Springfield, etc.

    No new road capacity required.
    People drive less distance.
    No new taxes (Tolls).
    Less dysfunctional sttlement pattern.
    Better overall management of what you have, instead of managing just the roadways.
    More roadways working at closer to capacity, so better ROI per road.

    Better SYSTEM efficiency.

    ——————————

    “more efficiency frees money and capital to be used for other purposes.”

    That’s right. Thats why efficiency promotes MORE consumption. But only if it is REAL efficiency: not the kind that robs Peter to pay Paul.

    If the SYSTEM forks over $10 to free up $5 in “efficiencies” then no one is better off. It is just a wealth transfer.

    Something that is truly efficient does not “work you to death”, which is exactly why I presented the sailboat example. It is a false efficiency: It is pretty, expensive, exciting, and fast, but not necessarily efficient.

    Like a Lexus on the HOT lane.

    ——————————-

    Commuters that buy gas where they live and then commute to NoVa jobs don’t pay a penny for their use of NoVa roads right now. The gas tax money goes to where they live.

    Well, we don’t really know that, do we? If that was true, NOVA would have plenty of road money, but road money isn’t the problem.

    Anyway, those NOVA residents vacation all over the state, without paying tolls. If you were advocating universal tolls instead of HOT lanes……….

    ——————————–

    “”efficiency” … implies.. sustainability… processes that are not efficient are not inherently sustainable…”

    Wrong. We have plenty of processes that are sustainable and inefficient. Some cities suffer excess pollution because slum dwellers cook and heat with dung. It is sustainable but inefficent. Authorities are trying to set up ways to distribute more kerosene cookers to cut down on pollution.

    But then they will have to clean up the dung.

    RH

  47. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Do foreclosed properties pay property taxes ? It appears not, and if not how is it legal to not pay taxes ? I recently called the Loudoun county treasurer’s office and they didnt seem to have a clue, they put me on hold for 15 minutes and then came back and said its up to the owner to pay the taxes and I then repeated my question and said, “The bank is the owner”…took em a minute to recover and say oh, uh I guess they dont pay it…they will have the new owner (when it ever happens) pay the back taxes to take the property…

    Does this sound wrong or what ? I know I have to pay my taxes on time, why do the banks/title holders not have to pay their taxes ? And if not, what is their incentive to sell the home in a timely fashion, think of all those uncollected taxes the county is not collecting and then look as your tax rates go up up….I think this is a national issue

  48. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    RH – I think you might be hopelessly confused about efficiency, productivity and sustainability.

    You confuse efficiency with a vehicle that can go faster than other vehicles.

    that’s not efficiency.

    Race cars get 4 mpg on high octane fuel and engines that are not even usable for normal road use.

    These vehicles have every part of them tuned for one thing – speed.

    efficiency on the other hand means more productivity.

    more productivity means that you produce MORE for less money for the resources used to produce.

    Making a manufacturing facility faster and faster is of no use if in the end, it costs you more per unit to produce.

    You could have the fastest manufacturing facility in the world but if your widget has to sell for more than other widgets then your competitors will beat you – and that is called sustainability.

    efficiency = productivity = sustainability.

    race cars and boats are very expensive niche vehicles that sacrifice everything else to accomplish a single thing – speed.

    You can take the most efficient car in the world -the one that uses the least fuel and costs less than any other vehicle to own and maintain .. and put it on a race track and it will come in so much dead last that it would not be funny.

    So you’re totally misunderstanding what true efficiency is…in an economic context.

    “dung is sustainable but inefficient”

    hey, don’t you think they would already be using something else other than dung if it WAS sustainable?

    what else would be MORE sustainable?

  49. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Dung burns at a low temperature, which means you have to use a lot of it to make a cup of tea.

    And, because it burns at a low temperature, dung creates a lot of pollution. By contrast, the sun burns at a high temperature, and creates relatively little pollution, pound for pound.

    Dung creates so much pollution that authorities are attempting to supplant it with kerosene.

    Not a perfect answer, but a better answer, given the conditions.

    We could attempt to supplant dung with solar cookers, if you don’t mind starving during monsoon season.

    Sustainable is NOT the same as efficient. In the end, it will necessarily be sufficient, but that means a lot of (current) people will do without.

    We can see this in the current debate over the (real) sustainability of biofuels.

    RH

  50. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Some ecnomists claim that, if you did the accounting correctly, and take into account depreciation for natural resources, then the GDP is actually negative.

    I don’t disagree. And this argument is central to the environmental movement.

    The question, then, is whether we can increase the use of (present) renewable resouces enough to compensate for the overuse of (previous, cetacious) renewable resources.

    Given that the previous renewable resources had a few hundred million years head start, the outlook isn’t all that good.

    EMR has said that what we need is fewer people consuming fewer resources. This is one of the places he and I agree.

    If sustainable resources are, like dung, less efficient than fossil resources, then we may have already passed the point at which what is sustainably sufficient is sufficient for all.

    We don’t know if that is the case. People like youself believe that we can achieve sufficiently greater efficiencies that we can put off the eventual reckoning.

    If it turns out, now or eventually, that what is sustainable is no longer sufficient, then we are going to have to face some harsh realities.

    Today, we call it genocide. The Chinese call it “One Child”. At present, we consider such practices aberrant, and localized.

    Eventually we will ahve to make some decisions as to what is worth doing and what isn’t.

    RH

  51. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “I think you might be hopelessly confused about efficiency, productivity and sustainability.”

    I don’t think so. I have more than a few graduate level courses on these topics. Of course, my instructers were only PHd’s.

    “You confuse efficiency with a vehicle that can go faster than other vehicles.”

    Only if it can go faster using the same amount of fuel. Or carry more cargo using the same amount of fuel. That is why I chose sailboats, using renewable fuel as an example.

    “more productivity means that you produce MORE for less money for the resources used to produce.”

    I agree. Why are you arguing?

    “Making a manufacturing facility faster and faster is of no use if in the end, it costs you more per unit to produce.”

    Not necessarily. It is a question of WHEN your payback ooccurs, and WHEN your market runs out.

    If you hit a runaway bestseller, like the hula hoop, or this weeks box ofice hit movie, you had better be poised to capitalize quickly.

    “efficiency = productivity = sustainability.”

    This is completley and utterly wrong. Sustainability is not part of that equation. I would like to think it is as much as you, but I know better. It violates every law of physics and thermodynamics, not to mention, economics.

    “You can take the most efficient car in the world -the one that uses the least fuel and costs less than any other vehicle to own and maintain .. and put it on a race track and it will come in so much dead last that it would not be funny.”

    Depends on the race. I have bet a race aginst my stink pot friends many times. My sailboat against their power boat.

    Annapolis to Cape Town.

    I have yet to have someone take the bet.

    It is all a “system”. After the officials convert all the dung burners to kerosene (to reduce pollution), then they will have to have a new system ot go out and collect all the dung.

    They will probaby use trucks that create pollution.

    But, it will be OK becuase of all the jobs created.

    RH

  52. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “efficiency = productivity = sustainability.”

    I said this was wrong. sustainability is not part of the equation.

    I’ll modify that response. It is only part of the equation if the timeframe is infinity, or until we run out of other resources.

    That is equivalent to saying that sustainability has an infinite value. That we can afford to do ANYTHING today in favor of the future. That means we must have an infinite discount rate.

    Which is exactly the sort of thing that got us into the current mortgage mess.

    ————————–

    This week, there was a big news bou-ha-ha over new ozone standards. Different sides advocated different standards, and in this case, lower standards won out.

    By your previous arguments, the system must have worked. Both sides had an opportunity to make thie case,based ont the facts available.

    I’m not so sure.

    On one side, a higher standatrds representative said, “I’ll be satisfied when people can breathe clean air”.

    It’s hard to argue with that sentiment.

    On the other side, some (industry) representative said that the science was being misrepresented. That people would wind up paying (as a matter of certainty) for (death and morbidity) benefits they might never see.

    I think BOTH sides are misrepresenting the case.

    What we really have is “I’ll be satisfied when people can breathe clean air (regardless of the cost, even if it means a cure for cancer)”.

    vs

    “People would wind up paying for benefits they might (or might not) ever see.”

    In the end, the most probable value is the probability of success times the cost of the attempt.

    Mathematically, this is NOT the same as an infinite expenditure to prevent failure, times the probablility of failure.

    RH

  53. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    IF, the cost of cleanup vs the value of cleanup wer linear, this would not be an issue.

    But, they are not. Generally, they are quadratic.

    The first time you clean a paintbrush, you remove half the paint, the second time, one quarter, the third time one eighth, etc.

    But each time, takes the same amount of solvent.

    To get the paintbrush pervectly clean reuires an infinite number of washes, and and infnite amout of solvent.

    And the solvent must be disposed of. If you require that the solvent be cleaned – you have the same problem over again.

    At some point, you have to make a choice. But, as far as I can tell, the environmental movement (generally) is denying this fact, and (eventually) this will be their undoing.

    If, EMR is right, WHO will be left out, and WHO not?

    At what point does environmentalism equal genocide, or something like it?

    You will deny this is an issue, because you believe that efficiency = productivity = sustainability.

    Non-sustainability means we run up against the edge of the petri dish and die.

    Sustainability means that we die before we run up against the edge.

    That just means we have to make hard choices sooner.

    RH

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