2.2.06

mn: Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Ballot Initiative

Barrring a miracle, the MVST ballot initiative is the big deal this year. So, Pawlenty's announcement in support of the measure is good to hear. (Election year, anybody?) I heard Saint Paul Representative Alice Hausmann talking about this initiative the other day, and she is wholly behind it too. It seems that if both sides can agree on this, it's bound to pass.

(Here's the Strib story.)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday that he would borrow $2.5 billion to pay for long-delayed road projects if voters approve a constitutional amendment to direct more money to transportation.

He sees this as an alternative to a gas tax increase, which he vetoed last year.

But, the current debate is over whether or not the gas tax ought to be raised. (The answer is obviously "yes.") Current squabbles are attempts to pin the Governor down on his veto from last year, which put the metro area even farther behind the transportation curve.

Conclusion:

The ballot measure will pass, and at least that's something.

But, the real crux is that the current price of gas isn't even close to covering for the subsidized cost of auto trasportation in this state. Raising the gas tax is just about the only way to affect consumer behavior, and even that takes years.

I just read an article on gas taxes from State Tax Notes ("Motor Fuel Taxation and Ecnomic Development: A Regional Approach" -- 12/26/05), which argues that a gas tax would reap economic and health benefits, even if you refunded the collected gas tax money on people's income taxes. Just shifting some of the auto costs onto a 'user fee' type of system would bring consumer choices in line with supply costs.

Debatable conclusion:

Vetoing last year's gas tax was the worst thing Pawlenty has done while in office.

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