Governor Deval Patrick wants to raise the Massachusetts gasoline tax by 19 cents, charge higher registration fees for gas-guzzlers, and even suggested taxing drivers for every mile they drive, the Boston Globe reported this week.
Under Patrick's plan, the state gas tax would nearly double from 23.5 to 42.5 cents, making it one of the highest in the country. Plans to increase tolls along the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels could be shelved if a gas tax hike is approved before the end of March. If it fails, the tolls would be raised anyway in July. (Update: The Turnpike Authority says that all toll increases would roll back if the gas tax is approved after both dates).
The so-called "Hummer fee" would target SUVs and trucks - vehicles not covered by the federal gas-guzzler tax. Cars that already carry the tax would effectively be penalized twice. But these fees - which would fund the state's debt-ridden public transportation system and $15 billion Big Dig - may be unneeded if their claim is to promote fuel-efficient vehicles.
After all, General Motors unwittingly cut its carbon footprint this week by planning to eliminate the entire Hummer and Saturn brands and much of the Pontiac lineup (Hummer is for sale, Saturn will die in 2011 but could be bought by its dealers, and a slimmer Pontiac will arrive by 2012, if not sooner).
So in three years - with the likely demise of Saturn, a continuing industry sales decline, and assuming Pontiac and Hummer (if it still exists) sell at least half as many cars as in 2008 - roughly 400,000 cars will be gone from American roads. That's not all of the 12 unnamed models GM will drop by 2012, or the company's black flag on future high-performance variants like the Cadillac CTS-V and Chevrolet Camaro SS. Less vehicles, less pollution, and more fuel-efficient cars. Sounds like a win for the government.
But according to the Globe, Patrick has this scenario covered, too. (Even Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is on it.)
"But Patrick cautioned that even if lawmakers raise the gas tax, the state would probably collect less money in the future as drivers buy more fuel-efficient cars and need less gas. Because of that, he is also considering a replacement that would charge drivers a fee for every mile they drive."
Perhaps we also need a Soviet-style visa system that prohibits people from traveling outside their regions. Or, a government-issued
black box chip installed in every vehicle that would be analyzed at every emissions inspection - wait, that's too realistic.
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