When Is a Tax Not a Tax?

By John A. Charles, Jr.CascadeNewLogo

Governor Kitzhaber wants you to drive less, and he knows that the best way to discourage driving is to make it more expensive.

The simplest way to do this would be to raise the state gas tax, which is currently 30 cents per gallon. However, this would require approval by three-fifths of the state legislative assembly, rather than the simple majority necessary for non-tax measures. There might not be enough votes for a tax increase.

The other problem is that the Oregon Constitution directs all gas tax revenues to be used only for road maintenance and improvement. Since improving roads would actually benefit motorists and potentially encourage more driving, this would undercut the Governor’s objective.

Instead, he is backing a legislative proposal known as the “low-carbon fuel standard,” designed to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles. Because this will be a very expensive requirement for gasoline refiners, it would cause the price of gasoline to rise by at least 19 cents per gallon, and possibly much more.

As a non-tax measure, this bill only needs a majority of votes in the legislature, and there will be no actual revenues created that might benefit motorists. They will simply pay more, and get nothing in return.

In the world of Oregon environmental policy, this is called a clever strategy. For motorists, it’s a scam. Legislators who go along with it should be ashamed of themselves.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

*This post has been updated to change “two-thirds” to “three-fifths.”


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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Economy, Energy, Environment, Ethics, Global Warming, Gov. Kitzhaber, Government Regulation, Green Energy, Oregon Government, Oregon House, Oregon Senate, State Government, Transportation | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Moe

    Very clever. And this from a man who can’t see straight when in love?? What a sad sack total loser fool idiot.
    If we could just tax his stupidity we would be awash in new funds!

  • Jack Lord God

    This is all part of the GPI (General Progress Indicator) index that Cylvia Hayes was getting payoffs to push for, and seems one of the areas where Kitzhaber clearly acted criminally.

    Essentially it codifies the progressive agenda into law as how the state would evaluate if something was beneficial to Oregon. It’s as if the NRA had legislation enacted whereby any other legislation was evaluated on the basis of whether or not it resulted in more carry permits and greater machine gun ownership.

    Everyone agrees that regardless of ones belief in AGW, Oregon doing anything in this realm on its own would have zero effect. Yet even the nineteen cent raise in gas prices would have a very negative effect on working families disposable income.

    That makes no economic sense whatsoever and it is impossible to argue that doing this would make Oregonians lives better. Yet the well connected cronies need their pound of flesh. Cylvia Hayes needs her money and Kitzhaber wants a cush consulting job of his own when this all blows over.Enter the GPI – under it’s scoring, this kind of nonsense counts as an improvement in peoples lives.

    Really it’s very simple – this is about taking money from working families and giving it to idiots whose sole contribution is not that they render a service or product anyone wants to buy, but that people have to be forced to purchase. Kitzhaber and Cylvia collect the skim for the deal. They play, you pay. Got it now?

  • Bob Clark

    What’s most bad about this bill is it pushes ethanol as a replacement for petroleum oil when it’s questionable ethanol actually reduces carbon dioxide emissions. (It actually uses in some degree coal based power generation in the U.S Midwest.)

    Moreover, almost all of the raw corn input to making ethanol comes from the U.S Midwest (and it would be prohibitive to try replacing it with much lower yielding corn growing in the Northwest). So, the bill creates an outflow from the Oregon economy favoring Midwest and other economies.

    And how and the world would an increase in ethanol content in gasoline not cause significant damage to existing cars and trucks intended to be owned and occasionally used by Oregonians over several decades in some cases (like I intend for my truck). I have already lost one lawn mower to ethanol corrosion when it was impermissible to buy purer gasoline.

    The Cleans Fuel Program is bad legislation even if you do believe in Climate Change (which I am agnostic about…I’d rather have warmer weather and/or suffer the natural consequences than have the consequent Orwellian government gorilla lording over me).

  • CherryAnn1000

    And somehow the gas tax revenue just never seems to get to the roads, now does it? And we all know greenhouse gas nonsense is just that–nonsense. It has been disproved and debunked over and over, but we still want to add more on to the gas tax to support a condition that doesn’t exist except in the minds of lib loons. The article says it’s a scam, and the author is right.

  • Larry George

    A tax is not a tax, when the City of Salem adds something to you water/sewer bill and call it a “FEE”. This is what they want to do now is ad a streetlight “fee”, that is really a tax.

  • Pat

    Add to all that the fact that Kitzhaber told Portland not to worry about implementing their proposed “street tax” for street maintenance in Portland, the “State would take care of it”. So, as usual, the entire state is to pay for Portland’s inability to take care of their own business. Why hasn’t the “State” done anything about Salem’s bus transit cutbacks? They cut their services and schedule, what, 3 or 4 years ago, now. They quit running nights and weekends, and have never started back up, again. Why do all the grants and help go to Portland?

  • TheFrequentPoster

    They’re trying the same end-around in Washington State, a “carbon tax” that’s exempt from the constitutional requirement to spend all gas tax money on highways.

  • Jim

    I am a motorist who drives sometimes. But I am also a Oregonian who values clean air and water. I pay stormwater fees as a homeowner to control pollution that mostly comes from cars and driving. I endure urban air pollution from cars and trucks who use my air shed as dumping ground. So I on one hand I feel a little scammed that motorists don’t pay the costs of polluting our air and waterways. But, if I am honest, when I do drive I am getting a free ride with the others. So I drive only when I need to. Why not tax driving for the environmental impacts it has on our air and water and spend it on things that make both cleaner?

    • .

      You really hanky panky for a regressive sales tax doncha sorry aid?

  • rolando

    Finally the poor would pay some taxes…I like this scheme!!!

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