Imagine this: There is no state sales tax on junk food. But consumption of foods with minimal sugar and fat content is taxed at five cents on the dollar. The money raised by such a tax is used to cover the additional health-care costs associated with the nation’s obesity epidemic.
In addition, imagine that people who eat organic, locally produced foods have to pay a $100 annual special consumption tax, the proceeds of which become rebates to farmers who buy pesticides and herbicides.
That imaginary scenario offers a metaphorical snapshot into the strange – but, alas, very real – transportation bill recently passed in the name of “we the people” by our enlightened representatives at the General Assembly in Richmond.
The bill eliminates the 17.5-cent per gallon tax on motor fuels and replaces it with a percentage-based tax of 3.5 percent for gasoline at the wholesale level. The effective halving of the gas tax, of course, only encourages more use of fossil fuels — not to mention traffic congestion. Moreover, diesel, which usually gets better mileage, will be taxed at a rate almost double that of gasoline.
And for those of us trying to save money at the pump (as well as help the environment) by owning a fuel-efficient vehicle, we actually get penalized! The bill imposes a $100 annual registration fee on hybrid vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles and electric motor vehicles.
Finally, for those of us who walk or bike whenever we can, we get to subsidize road improvements for our auto-happy fellow citizens – through a statewide sales and use tax increase from the current 4 percent to 4.3 percent.
No one likes to pay taxes, of course. But when we do, the expectation is that those who represent us craft tax policies that incentivize behavior for the common good. Unless I’m missing something, this new transportation policy does just the opposite.