Watch Out, Here Comes the Transportation and Climate Initiative

Virginia voter priorities. Source: Click to enlarge.

by James A. Bacon

A new poll from a “nonpartisan nonprofit think tank,” MassInc., has found that 60% of Virginians surveyed support the Transportation and Climate Initiative Framework while only 29% oppose it and 11% are unsure of their feelings, reports The Virginia Mercury.

We know right off the bat that the findings are nonsense. The fact is, most Virginians have never heard of the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Those who answered MassInc.’s questions were responding to a description of TCI provided by MassInc.’s pollsters:

Under the plan, companies that sell and distribute gasoline and diesel fuel to gas stations in the region would have to pay for the pollution created by the fuels sold and used there. Each state in the program would get a share of the money collected from those companies, based on how much fuel is used in their state. States could use this money to make transportation in their state better, cleaner, and more resilient to the effects of climate change. They could also use it to help residents with any higher costs the companies try to pass on to them.

That poll is about as loaded as you can get.

The cost of TCI would fall on “companies that sell and distribute gasoline and diesel fuel,” the explanation says. The resulting manna would pay for goodies such as making transportation “better, cleaner and more resilient” — oh, and not only that, would help offset any higher costs “the companies try to pass on to them.” Benefits for everyone, but no pain for anyone except those who sell gasoline. Given the wording, frankly, it is remarkable that Virginians favor the idea by a mere 2-to-1 margin.

The poll’s cross tabs tell a different story. The pollsters asked, ‘How much of a priority do you think each of the following should be for state government in your state?” I have replicated the results, broken down by geographic area, at the top of this post (lumping together results for “major priority” and “minor priority.”)

The priorities with greatest support are jobs/economy and, close behind, improving the network of roads/bridges/highways. Addressing the cost of health care is a high priority, as is improving public education.  Then come addressing air pollution and provide clean energy. At the bottom of the list is addressing climate change. Of course the results are positive for addressing climate change. Who wouldn’t want to… in the abstract? But when compared to other priorities listed, addressing climate change had the weakest support of all.

Please note, the survey did not give respondents the options of “reducing taxes” or “reducing transportation costs.” The only questions that have any meaning are those that explore peoples’ willingness to make tradeoffs between competing goods. This survey does not do that.

…. Which means the survey is not meant to plumb public opinion but to shape it.

Bacon’s bottom line: Watch out, people. First they laid the groundwork for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade mechanism for reducing the carbon output of electric utilities, which will cost electric rate payers in Virginia multiple billions of dollars. Now they are laying the groundwork for a similar cap-and-trade scheme for automobile emissions, which, I can assure you, will cost billions more.

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17 responses to “Watch Out, Here Comes the Transportation and Climate Initiative

  1. Not sure, but it sounds like it might be modelled on Califorinia’s program where carbon emissioms are taxed by sending a bill to the gaso sales companies. Price of gaso is then increased to compensate but is not shown on the pump. Calfiornia has had this maybe 6 years or so, but for the first years the carbon credit market was such that it did not cost much. Not sure how its going now, but Ca. pump prices are quite a bit higher than the state taxes alone would suggest it should be.

  2. “They could also use it to help residents with any higher costs the companies try to pass on to them.”
    Gosh, so they’re going to tax them to raise the money to give to me to defray the costs passed on to me from when they taxed them.
    I love this part.
    ” . . .higher costs the companies TRY to pass on” . . . as if they somehow might fail at it.

  3. 1) The Governor yesterday said he will seek a real bill to approve Virginia joining RGGI. The same step should be required on TCI. Roll calls, please. 2) The TCI model language is due to be released this month, but I guess they wanted to roll this out first. 3) Yes, this will be similar to what happens in CA, driving up its fuel costs.

  4. I think polls from the urban areas of the country show strong support for reductions in green house gases from fossil fuels.

    Of course “strong support” does dissipate when money enters the conversation.

    But people support the coal ash cleanup even though they know it will add to their bills.

    And I’d not be surprised at all that most urban areas in Virginia will support RGGI even if it increases the price of gasoline.

    This is another one of those issues where folks on the right – Conservatives really don’t offer alternatives – just opposition and so that’s the choice given to voters.

    Rural Virginia and Conservatives are going to oppose – and urban voters are going to support…

  5. Coal ash clean up is a very clear, tangible, and easy to understand goal.

    Making ” . . . transportation in their state better, cleaner, and more resilient to the effects of climate change,” ain’t.

    • well it is. People by more efficient cars. In the urban areas, they support mass transit. People support car pooling, van/bus pooling, commuter lots, slugging, hybrid cars, etc…

      poll after poll shows this

  6. When personal dollars, time and inconvenience are at work, people often stop walking their talk. Witness a room full of many Fairfax County Democrats last April calling for the County to violate federal and state fair housing laws because a group home for teens with emotional problems was going to open in their neighborhoods. I still hear some arguing to take emotional disabilities out of the fair housing laws. “I’m a strong Democrat but …”

    What happens when the environmental extremists start raising gas and light bills by 50%? California-style gas prices? Higher grocery prices? Higher property taxes to pay for the likely added school buses taking kids around the county for social and economic balance? At some point, Trump-phobia bumps up against economic reality.

    Wouldn’t a better plan be to stop buying anything made in China and India? How much less carbon would be emitted if the Unites States did not purchase imports from those two nations?

    • What could possibly be more regressive than raising gas and electrical bills. But if it helps to hide the taxes from the voters Democrats are “all in” for regressive measures.

      • What could be more repressive that the GOP giving Dominion unilateral profits from ratepayers on everything from excess profits, tax refunds, wind, energy efficiency and coal ash cleanup?

  7. TMT – you’ve gone over the brink guy.

    You’re ALWAYS going to have some situations where some folks of a particular political puersuation do not support one particular thing.

    That’s NOT the same as all of them retreating from their principles!

    Similarly – attributing to a LOT of folks who are concerned about the environment – all the extreme positions of some is just bogus.

    People that do this are exposing their own across-the-board opposition to environmental issues in general. They don’t support any of it so they attack those that do claiming they are all “extreme”.

    That dog don’t hunt guy.

    Poll after poll after poll and the results at elections show that a majority of people are concerned about the environment and climate change.

    That’s NOT “radical” except to those who find themselves all the way at the other end of the continuum…

  8. In New York City there is a “National debt clock”. It is a billboard with a counter that purports to tally the national debt in real time. The size of the number and speed with which the counter increases make a pretty vivid point.

    The Republicans in Virginia need a “Democratic tax clock”. A counter that shows the total amount of extra taxes levied since the Democrats took control. These taxes could be overt or hidden. The price increases from this gasoline scheme would be counted.

    It’s sad that the Democrats are proving (in the very early going) to be at least as slimy as the Republicans. Northam’s scheme of paying the state’s cost of Medicaid expansion by taxing not-for-profit hospital creating a tax on health care payers creating a tax on people receiving healthcare or paying for health insurance (i.e. everybody). Dominion is going to clean up its coal ash pits charging all the ratepayers for the cleanup and for the inputed profits they feel performing the clean up entitles them. This gas scam will tax the people who sell gas and the higher prices will immediately get passed to the consumer as another hidden tax.

    Hopefully the Republicans will at least try to make all the new, hidden taxes visible to Virginians.

    • The provider assessment tax is often referred to as “Northam’s scheme” or some variation. In fact, the hospitals themselves initially put forth than idea and supported it as part of Medicaid expansion. Furthermore, some Republican bills included the provider assessment tax in their provisions. https://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/general-assembly/as-va-budget-fight-resumes-hospitals-balance-benefits-of-expanding/article_9573ac93-57f1-5261-9f82-fc4850767e31.html

      It is curious to me that so many on this blog demonize Northam. He is one of the more moderate Democrats; in fact, several years ago, Republicans tried to get him to switch parties.

      Your “Tax clock” should also denote the hidden taxes included in the electricity rate hikes resulting from all the goodies that Republicans, such as Frank Wagner and Terry Kilgore, have bestowed upon Dominion. It should also include the “tax expenditures” that are the result of the many tax credits that Republicans have sought over the years.

      • If I had a choice between the hospitals charging me extra fees to pay for their uncompensated charity care and extra fees to pay for insurance for people who would be incurring charges they can’t pay for – I’d take the later which is what the provider tax is.

        Really – this is little different than what we pay on our auto insurance for uninsured drivers.

        Somewhere in the middle of all this – we ought to be able to stand back and look at what is happening and pick a reasonable path without making every single one of them – an exercise in partisan politics.

        we pay for uninsured people right now – if we can find a way to pay for them to get more regular medical care that will manage disease rather than wait until it become an emergency room charity care problem – why would we not do that? Because it’s a up-front “tax” to reduce uncompensated care costs?

        that’s just foolish. We cut off our noses to spite our face in politics these days.. it’s dumb.

      • Wilder had the same provider tax proposal long ago. I still had the “No Sick Tax” lapel buttons that were made up in opposition.

    • If people’s taxes at tax time are the same as last year, I predict a “tax clock” will just be seen as yet another partisan weapon.

  9. Green until it “hurts.” The poll is defective because it does not tie a result to the cost for the individual. Damn near everyone wants free stuff, including environmental improvement. For example, most people in Fairfax County want a clean Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. But there is considerable and constant complaining about the increases in sanitary sewer bills, which reflect more expensive waste treatment.

    And let’s see what would happen if someone proposed a commercial-size solar farm in Fairfax County. People would go crazy.

    Most people look out for number one. Find out what people are willing to pay for a specified benefit. “How much extra would you billing to pay each month for electricity that reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25%?” “Dominion Energy has provided evidence that it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% at a cost of an additional $XX per month per YY kwh. Would you be willing to pay this higher bill monthly to obtain this level of greenhouse gas emissions?”

    “If people’s taxes at tax time are the same as last year.” According to a study by the Fairfax County Taxpayer Alliance, Fairfax County real estate taxes have increased at a rate three times the rate of inflation since 2000. There has been a steady upward push except during the years of and immediately after the Great Recession.

  10. “Green until it “hurts.” … For example, most people in Fairfax County want a clean Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. But there is considerable and constant complaining about the increases in sanitary sewer bills, which reflect more expensive waste treatment. And let’s see what would happen if someone proposed a commercial-size solar farm in Fairfax County. People would go crazy.”

    Precisely. The green hoax in a nutshell.

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