TFB OFF THE MARK WITH “PAY AS YOU GO” TAX BILL … 3RD BERKSHIRE REP RESPONDS QUICKLY TO PLANET’S REQUEST FOR INFO, THOUGH SHE DODGES KEY QUESTIONS … NEW TAX, RIGHT NOW A PILOT PROGRAM, THREATENS TO BITE BERKSHIRE MOTORISTS IN THE WALLET
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, MARCH 1, 2013) — Yeah, we know. March: In like a lion, out like a lamb, except in our case today, “In with the lying, out with the Trash.” Our name is PLANET. We cover politics.
THE PLANET thanks Joe Blow for bringing Andy McKeever‘s article in Tuesday edition of iBerkshires to our attention. Here’s the link for the article, which covers 3rd Berkshire District representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier’s co-sponsorship of a bill that would institute a new tax on motorists.
Prompted by McKeever’s story, we sent our Right Honorable Good Friend from the 3rd Berkshire District a set of questions. As we like to be as up front as possible on stories like this, we will share the e-mail we sent to the 3rd Berkshire Representative, so you can better judge her response. We sent this on Feb. 27, in the evening.
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We just heard about the bill you are sponsoring, the so-called “pay as you drive” measure.
We would like a response to the following questions:
* Are you serious? Do you honestly think that introducing a new tax based on usage is goingto be more equitable for your constituents, many of whom are barely keeping afloat, financially?
* What is the guarantee that, if adopted, this new tax will not replace but be added to the gasoline tax.
* How on earth will this fee be collected?
* What about the “Big Brother”aspect of this. Do you understand the implications of this technology upon the constitutional right to privacy? Are you serious when you liken this to cell phone usage and information?
* What this bill your idea or are you acting on someone’s behalf?
* Do you expect the pilot program to be approved? If so, when? How will you select the initial participants.
* You know, do you not, that the federal guv. accountability office says there’s not way you could introduce this fad idea in America and have it be profitable.
Feel free to add anything else.
I want you to have a full and free chance for comment in my article on this, which should run on THE PLANET Friday.
I will need to hear from you no later than 9 p.m. tomorrow night to make my deadline.
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On Feb. 28, TFB sent this reply, beating our deadline by five hours, for which we were and are most appreciative:
Thank you for raising these questions. When I first heard of VMT, I shared many of your concerns.
I have been working on the VMT bill since January with my co-sponsor, Representative Carl Sciortino of Medford, and Transportation4MA, a coalition working toward improved transportation choices for Massachusetts residents. Their website can be viewed here: www.t4ma.org.
H.3142, An Act to establish a Vehicle Miles Traveled Pilot Program, proposes a pilot program to identify an alternative to the gas tax. The pilot would seek 1000 volunteers from the entire Commonwealth to vary pricing on miles traveled based on proximity to public transit, time of driving, type of road, and vehicle fuel while evaluating ways to protect data collected and ensure privacy.
While many state legislators prefer a straight gas tax, I believe the VMT is a more equitable way to collect a “user fee” for transportation investment funds. Western MA residents do not have public transit options comparable to those who live in the metro area. We would be unfairly burdened if the Commonwealth relied on an increase in the gas tax to fix our broken transportation system and make investments in new projects, such as passenger rail service from Pittsfield to NYC.
Key provisions in the bill are:
• This is a limited pilot program only, and participation would be strictly voluntary.
• Various collection methods, including collection at the pump, will be tested.
• VMT is an alternative to a gas tax. The gas tax unfairly burdens the people of Western MA who have few or no public transit options.
• Any and all location information will remain in the vehicle, and would only transmit the amount owed by the user.
Here is a link to the bill text which I am sure you will find useful:
You mentioned the GAO. The report I read from them http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-77 is supportive of VMT fees and it starts out by stating that “mileage-based user fee initiatives in the United States and abroad show that such fees can lead to more equitable and efficient use of roadways by charging drivers based on their actual road use and by providing pricing incentives to reduce road use.”
Here’s an interesting article you might want to read that explores this idea.
I believe in investing in transportation. It is key to economic development and job creation, not to mention quality of life. In order to make those investments, we need revenue. There are those who strongly advocate for a gas tax. The VMT is a fairer way to distribute the cost and protects the people of the Berkshires.
3rd Berkshire District
Boston, MA 02133
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We are Squarely on ‘the Other Side’ of this Bill
First, and again, we appreciate the representative’s prompt reply, and although it has the ring and tone of boilerplate, we did find the links helpful to an extent, that being up to the point where we wanted to understand the “other side’s” position. Make no mistake: THE PLANET is squarely on the “other side” of this bill. True, its passage would implement only a small, 1,000-driver pilot program, but there are a couple of concerns:
1. Who would design and administer the pilot program? Where is the assurance that we could trust the neutrality of the sample? In other words, if the experiment is being done to achieve the results its sponsors want, what good will that do? What is the assurance this won’t happen? In graduate school, we took an entire course on how to design surveys. Part of the work was designing surveys to achieve pre-planned results, called the “Self Fulfilling Prophecy Survey.”
2. Any time Boston starts flirting with new taxes, especially with the pitch that it will be “fairer” to those in the Berkshires, you can hold on to your wallet. The outcome is never good for the bedraggled (and rapidly vanishing) middle class in these vanquished parts.
Aside from that, our first observation is that Farley-Bouvier was unopposed in November. This is a true measure of the apathy created by the GOBs to ensure their stranglehold over local politics. It’s hard for a rookie rep, especially one who was so “hand-picked” by the GOB, not to let it all go to her head. “Without opposition” usually leads to a sense of destiny, that “you” know what’s best for “them.”
As we pointed out yesterday, by producing a government that caters to the haves and spits on the have-nots, the GOBs have disgusted good, decent citizens into a shuffling disinterest in THEIR government not seen in these parts, ever. This is a historic time in that sense. Running unopposed produces the kinds of quixotic odysseys embodied by the pay-as-you go motoring bill.
By the way, strictly as a related aside, apathy also explains why the GOBs want to take all the the “subterraneans,” deadbeats, and “gimme groups” they can get from from other cities. Creating a subculture of wastrels, gang members, and dolts assures there will be fewer people of substance who would want to do something really stupid like, you know, run for office to provide competition for the chosen ones. Apathy also affords greater proportioned weight to the GOBs loyal cadre of Democrat apparatchiks, especially those who profit from (or aspire to profit from) the public trough and gravy train.
If you read the federal report on the pay-as-you-go program, fashioned after a sort from similar programs in Europe, and ignore the hype, you will find that the GAO says it just won’t work in the U.S. With 230 million vehicles and a land mass dwarfing any European country, the “pay as you go” tax would be a huge money loser, “greatly exceed[ing] the cost of collecting fuel taxes,” which is what TFB wants to replace. How would that benefit Berkshire motorists? Seems the opposite would be true.
How Would the Program Work: They Don’t Have a Clue
In introducing her bill, co-sponsored with Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Medford), TFB admits she hasn’t a clue how the tax would be collected, where it would be collected, or by whom it would be collected. She also does not guarantee that the new tax will replace the old gasoline tax. How much you want to bet, with tax-happy Dems in charge led by Gov. Deval Taxes, Massachusetts motorists end up with two taxes where there used to be one. Notice how TFB ignored that question from THE PLANET. We asked: “What is the guarantee that, if adopted, this new tax will replace but be added to the gas tax.” She also did not directly answer other of our questions.
The bill, which would begin with a pilot program, ignores the following additional problems:
* Huge concerns over privacy. If the bill passes into law, every motor vehicle in the state would have to pack a GPS to track the location of the vehicle No potential for abuse there, eh?
* There are no reliable cost estimates.
* With costs basically unknown, how would information from a pilot program be reliably derived from a sample as small as 1,000 drivers, even assuming the testing was on the level? This question becomes particularly urgent when you realize that the larger the scale of the program, say, statewide, the more cost-ineffective it becomes.
* Why would the state want to waste any resources on a program that “boasts” a reverse economy of scale, even if in pilot form? Isn’t there a financial crisis, or is sequestering just another illusion sprung from our turbulent devotion to the sun?
Here’s the ultimate irony. Let’s say this new tax gets in. Let’s further say they will do away with the gas tax. Why, we ask, would they want to get rid of this golden-egg-laying goose? The reason is that you have been responsible, motorists. TFB and others in the government, who apparently think they don’t yet take enough of your hard-earned money via taxes, want you to pay this new tax because, since the recession hit in 2008-09, many of you have been buying smaller, more fuel efficient cars. There’s more car-pooling. You also are not taking as many discretionary car trips — the Sunday drive has become to expensive.
In other words, you did what the dumb clucks in government asked you to do: Help us save gas. Let us become energy independent. Now, too late, they realize, “Gee, that means we won’t rake in as much gas tax money.” Their solution? Tax you with a system that will likely double the taxes you pay for having the audacity of needing to drive. You did what they asked, and now they want to penalize you for it.
TFB also doesn’t say if she will be participating in the pilot program. She racks up hefty miles to and from Berkshires and Boston, all well-covered by her $100/day+ per diem. And you probably know that for her $61,133 annual salary (not including committee assignments) TFB pays no federal taxes! Try pulling that one come April 15.
The Chris Speranzo School of Unaccountable Invisibility
Tricia Farley-Bouvier comes out of the Chris Speranzo School of Unaccountable Invisibility for Budding Pols, easily ducking what passes for a “press” in the Berkshires, being handed a free pass on most everything, loving the stupid photo-ops (“State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier receives a ‘valentine’ with 218 signatures from MCLA students for her efforts on transportation at Monday’s forum.”), and following orders from the masters (who are, decidedly, not We The People). We are happy for her and her secure future as a hand-picked overnight success, but how much longer can We The People keep pretending that we have a representative government that cares about the little folk back home?
FROM THE PLANET’s UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY: Politician, n. = A person incapable of independent thought, typically controlled by unseen masters. A “politician” makes of words like “character” and “integrity” a chant that enters, voice by voice, like mockery into the ears of those who believe truth, justice, and fairness have a place in public life.
Word from the Web
On her web site, TFB tells us of her “threefold mission:” She wants to:
1. “generate job growth.” THAT hasn’t happened.
2. “marshal the resources of the state to enhance the quality of education available in Pittsfield.” THAT CERTAINLY hasn’t happened. We should also note that Farley-Bouvier opted for school choice, pulling her own children out of the sinking Pittsfield Public Schools in favor of the Millionaires in Lenox.
3. “improve the transparency of and accessibility to state government.” The Trifecta, because THAT hasn’t happened. It is heartening to know, though, that, like Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi, Farley-Bouvier is for “transparency.”
For once, wouldn’t you like to see one of these suits to admit it: “The last f****** thing in the world I want to do is to let you peons know what I’m doing.”
Thus, let us propose our idea of a “fairer way … to protect the people of the Berkshires.” How about we tax the amount of time our “representatives” in Boston have wasted on “our” behalf since those Big, Strong Men short-circuited free elections and set them up for life at the State House? What would you say? What’s the hourly rate for that kind of personal service? In Nevada, it’s pricey but legal.
If you would like to e-mail the state representative to share your feelings about the new tax she wants to impose on your driving, you can do so at
Tricia.Farley-Bouvier@MAHouse.gov. You can call her at (413) 442-4300.
”Dark, marvelous, and inscrutable he moved on / Till down the fiery distance he was gone, / Like one of those eternal, remote things / That range across a man’s imaginings.” —E. A. Robinson
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.