Seeming Wise, but Raising Taxes
For years, I’ve been arguing against transportation bonds on the grounds that such basic matters of infrastructure are the first expenses that our government ought to make. Instead, the political strategy becomes one in which elected officials and unelected bureaucrats spend as much money as they can on non-basic services and then return to taxpayers to fund critical projects like road and bridge repairs, often leveraging debt to delay the pain that such a strategy is sure to cause.
Well, the RI Senate is beginning to tackle the problem, but in a way that attempts to make the strategy more of a permanent fixture:
The Senate Commission on Sustainable Transportation Funding became the latest in a series of study groups to recommend highway tolls along with higher driving-related fees such as licensing and registration. …
The commission also recommended that the state look into a VMT tax, for vehicle miles traveled. That would mean a fundamental change in the way driving is taxed. Now, motorists usually pay indirectly, through taxes and fees. A VMT tax would raise money by taxing actual miles driven. It remains unclear, however, how that would be done.
Sen. Louis DiPalma (D, Little Compton, Tiverton, Aquidneck Island) places cessation of debt as the first priority, which is good and necessary, but it’s as part of an effort to add revenue sources. What the state government should be doing is starting its budget from zero, funding those things that give government the most justification to tax money out of the economy and then arguing for any additional expenditures and even tax/fee increases for everything else on the merits.