We’ll All Pay for Infrastructure
While plans can always change, last month House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi scheduled a Sept. 27 vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. If the spend-money-like-drunken-sailors progressives in the House have their way, they will tie a $3.5 trillion wish list to it.
To that I say, watch out. The idea that we can tax the rich to pay for our profligate ways is so preposterous that one wonders if waiting the wings is a guy peddling the rights to the Brooklyn Bridge.
If you don’t believe me, consider the story that appeared in early August about a plan to charge annual “per-mile user fees,” tucked away in a provision of the bill.
Not an actual tax yet, what the legislation does is invest $125 million in exploring the possibility of enacting a federal vehicle miles traveled tax (VMT) on drivers.
Using the carrot-and-stick approach, the money will fund local, state and federal pilot projects testing the feasibility of a road usage fee. Whenever a government agency talks “fees,” I hear “taxes.”
In reporting on the issue, Forbes said proponents haven’t decided whether the VMT should replace or be an addition to existing federal and state gas taxes. It said the confusion is aptly displayed in Oregon, the first state to launch a pilot program.
“Participants in Oregon’s voluntary VMT pilot program, established in 2015, pay the state 1.8 cents for every mile driven,” wrote Patrick Gleason. “The state awards program participants a credit to reimburse them for the amount they paid in traditional state gas tax.
“While such a pilot program was initially structured to test out a VMT as a replacement for the gas tax, it has strayed from that goal in ensuing years to the extent that it seems many VMT proponents now envision the levy as an add-on and not a replacement to the gas tax.”
Why am I not surprised that those supporting a VMT—which is only one letter away from a European-style VAT (Value Added Tax)—want to make it an addition rather than a replacement?
Paying the Bill
My point is not to moan about the gas tax going up, since that’s bound to happen. After all, it’s been 28 years since Uncle Sam raised the federal rate.
But the idea we can pay for the massive investment in infrastructure across the nation—and then a social services bill nearly three times the size—solely by taxing everyone earning over $400,000 is an exercise in fiction.
When you make dramatic improvements to roads, bridges and the like, it’s going to affect everyone, not just the 1 percenters.
While it may take a while, I can easily envision the day when a per-mile, per-car assessment is coming. Especially as the nation moves in the direction of more electric vehicles, rendering the gas tax as relevant as dial-up internet service.
In the meantime, keep a careful eye on the legislative mavens in our nation’s capital. They may not stop with a VMT.