Pay Your Fair Share!

Prius-driving hippies want to have their tofu and eat it, too.

Following a proposal by the state Dept. of Transportation to raise more than $750 million via a variety of new taxes and fees to fill a giant hole in the transportation fund, liberals are coming out of their forest dwellings, taking to social media to cry about one particular measure: a $50 surcharge to register hybrid and electric cars.

Everyone else pays some 55 cents per gallon in taxes, which helps maintain the state’s over-built network of highways, bridges, and those damned roundabouts. Drivers of electric and hybrid cars don’t pay nearly as much as the average driver, but now liberals are wetting themselves because they might be forced to do exactly as they demand everyone else does and pay their fair share.

Capitol City Sunday host Greg Neumann a few weeks ago even went so far as to suggest, with a straight face, that DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb (he was questioning Gottlieb on the show), and by extension Governor Walker, is trying to target Madison liberals because they’re not his friends. Maybe it was tongue-in-cheek, but that’s nearly as believable as a theory proposing that a clone of the Bearded Woman landed a UFO on the Grassy Knoll and shot Kennedy with a Romulan Distruptor.

Also absurd is the insinuation that only left-wingers drive fuel efficient cars; I drive a Jetta. Although with the early onset of a miserable winter I’m tempted to lease an F-850 and leave it running in my driveway until March in an effort to do my part to accelerate “global warming.” And then there’s the claim that tacking on a surcharge adds a disincentive to buying gas-lite cars. This is not also not only a stretch but irrelevant. Whined the Sheboygan Press, “The hybrid tax — $50 is the amount proposed — is a punishment for not buying as much gas as other cars.”

No, Sheboygan Press, it’s not. To use a word that The Left likes to bandy around, it’s closing a loophole that can be used to avoid contributing equally to the maintenance of the roads. The quantity of gas purchased is just a measurement – those buying less gas contribute less money to the fund, yet use the highway system just the same, and that’s the real question. Also, over the life of the hybrid or the electric (coal-powered) car you’ll still save a fortune in gas; there’s still plenty of financial incentive, on top of the warm aura of moral superiority some people enjoy after lovingly applying their Co-Exist and Scott-Free bumper stickers to their brand new Leaf.

The surcharge on hybrid and electric vehicles is a matter of basic fairness. It’s forcing (or, in the dulcet-toned-tax-vernacular of the Democrats, “asking”) people who pay much less into the transportation fund via the gas tax to make up for it. The Left demands we all pay our “fair share,” from millionaires to retirees who survive off capital gains to cigarette smokers; they spend their time exhorting the value of transportation infrastructure as the quintessential example of government goodness.

It was for this reason in part that President Obama claimed if someone has a business, they didn’t build that, someone else made that happen. It was the roads funded by the government that made those jobs happen, not the business owner who mortgaged their home to stay afloat and worked 90 hour weeks to keep their doors open. If roads are so crucial (Yes, they’re important), and if The Left wants to take credit for everyone else’s success because of them, they should eagerly bounce on down to the DMV and pay the 50 bucks.

Democrats will, furthermore, be the first to advocate raising taxes to solve the transportation funding shortfall, just a few years after they winked and nodded at Jim Doyle as he raided the fund to balance the budget. But they’re only for a comprehensive solution if it doesn’t force new fees on their straw-hat-wearing brethren.

The surcharge is designed to approximate the amount an electric or hybrid driver saves in a year in gas taxes. It’s the definition of fairness, and it’s a necessary step to adapting a system of measuring and paying for road usage that’s quickly becoming an antique.

Environmentalists want to drive on roads for free just because they’re saving the environment. They expect everyone to pay their fair share except themselves.

About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.