Deal to increase sales tax to build roads

There is an initiative floating around from some group called the “TIME Coalition”.

A shady backroom deal cooked up between Napolitano and the Arizona Home Builders is almost too much to bear. It seems the home builders have engineered a way to escape any extra taxation (impact fees) by helping out the governor with another of here proposals. More here: including an image of the leaked agreement

As a tactic to derail TIME’s proposition (should it make it to the ballot), no-new-taxes lawmakers are preparing their own legislative initiative. This would set up a situation where potentially there could be two similar but competing ballot propositions both dealing with “transportation”. Rep. Russell Pearce’s legislation would put a ballot proposition that would levy a 1/2 percent addition general state sales tax whose revenues would be used for building roads. This is meant to stick it in the eye of TIME’s proposition which spends some of its revenue on public transportation — but not very much, 78% is on roads and freeways and only around 20% is on public transit. Rival Transportation Plan Posed, Arizona Republic, May 30, 2008.

License Plate Covers

Apparently the existing law, ยง28-2354, which requires that vehicle license plates be displayed “clearly legibly” isn’t clear enough for police, who don’t seem to enforce that law.

Thus House Bill HB2250 (48th legislature, 2nd regular session, 2008) which would make the rules about covers crystal clear: “…a person shall not apply a covering or any substance to the license plate”.

Unfortunately, the provision is tangled up with the abortion debate — strange but true! It turns out the cover thing is in a bill involving special license plates… thus the controversy.

And as if one controversy wasn’t enough, the cover thing is clearly aimed at would-be camera violators.

By the way, probably the most controversial use of photo enforcement was speed cameras on a section of Loop 101 in Scottsdale. ASU engineering professor Simon Washington’s research has consistently showed only good things in terms of safety and even a time savings due to reduced speed — that is the time savings due to fewer crashes more than offset the time lost by lower speed. See Speed cameras help travel time, report says, Arizona Republic,May 13, 2008.

Unmentioned and unquantified in the report are not only fuel consumption, and air pollution benefits. Mean speeds were reduced from 73 before to 64 mph after enforcement. Vehicles’ toxic NOX pollution increases substantially with increased speed. NOX turns into ozone.

The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change

The full paper that was excerpted to become a WSJ op-ed piece can be downloaded from the Pacific Research website. (a good deal, as the cover price is $24.95!).

I should point out that the paper is not a scientific endeavor, and the author is not a scientist by training: “Hayward holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and an M.A. in Government from Claremont Graduate University”. It is more of an outlook and commentary. He tends to think the mass-media (MSM?) has a tendency to sensationalize environmental stories and make everything seem both excessively gloomy and unfairly blame anthropogenic causes — this is probably true. He lists some citations that refute that trend: Continue reading The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change

Gas Tax Pandering

It’s hard to know where to start with this one. John McCain at least openly acknowledges that economics isn’t his strong suit. Senator Kyl, I would have thought, would know better. Pure pandering.

Here we are in the midst of a big brown-cloud and ozone non-attainment season, and our two senators are endorsing a plan to increase the amount to gasoline and diesel consumed. Vehicle emissions in Maricopa county (the Phoenix metropolitan area) are the primary contributor to smog.

As if that’s not bad enough, the shortfall — the amount that would have been collected during the “holiday” — will be made up from general revenue. Which is to say, car use will be (further) subsidized by taxes unrelated to driving, like the income tax, or will simply make the federal deficit larger. This sets up exactly the wrong incentives– you will get more driving and less useful economic activity.

From a economic policy perspective, a much better stimulus would be to have some sort of “holiday” on payroll taxes. These taxes are a direct tax on labor, and hit lower-wage earners particularly hard.

“…John McCain proposed a ‘gas tax holiday’ that would suspend federal levies between Memorial Day and Labor Day… His Arizona colleague, Jon Kyl, promptly introduced it as Senate legislation”

“The 18.4 cent tax per gallon of gas (24.4 cents for diesel) funds interstate highway repairs and other transit needs, though general revenue would offset losses from the moratorium.”

Global Warming Holiday, WSJ April 25, 2008. (emphasis added)

Cycling, traffic safety, traffic justice, and legal topics; energy, transit and transportion economics