Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Meanwhile the Bush administration was pushing the biggest toll scheme on Earth, a plan to turn Texas into a toll state..."

Uh-oh, does this mean more toll schemes?


By Paul Mulshine
The Star Ledger (New Jersey)
Copyright 2009

Buried at the bottom of a New York Times article about the Bret Schundler appointment is this nugget of information about Chris Christie's choice for transportation commissioner, James Simpson:

"Interestingly, he gave high praise in 2008 to Mr. Corzine’s ill-fated plan to raise turnpike and parkway tolls 800 percent to pay for transportation improvements, calling it courageous and giving it the Bush administration’s endorsement. But Mr. Christie, as a candidate, ridiculed the plan and has ruled out both toll and tax increases. Mr. Simpson, at a news conference on Monday, showed he had trimmed his sails: he said taxes were off the table and spoke instead about cost-cutting and public-private partnerships."

Public-private partnerships? I've been following the toll issue closely for almost a decade now, and that's code for those nutty schemes promoted by foreign toll-road companies to charge you based on all sorts of new criteria, such as traffic density.

This is the sort of thing you read in Reason Magazine, which pretends to be a journal of libertarian thought but is in reality the propaganda front for the toll interests. And those interests are not partisan. Democrats like Gov. Jon Corzine and Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania have pushed toll schemes. Meanwhile the Bush administration was pushing the biggest toll scheme on Earth, a plan to turn Texas into a toll state.

The argument these guys make is always the same: We can't afford to raise the gas tax, so we need tolls. There are some people dumb enough to accept this argument, but all must have failed fifth-grade math.

The current cost of New Jersey's gas tax is about half a cent a mile in a typical car. Meanwhile tolls can exceed 15 cents a mile. That's 30 times as much tax just to cover the same distance.

So keep an eye on this guy. The pols of both parties are simply salivating over the prospect of putting tolls on such roads as I-287, I-78 and I-80. Don't let them pretend that this is not a tax hike.

And by the way, note this gem from the Reason website: "When toll road opponents claim toll rates will be $1.60 or $2 per mile in the year 2050, they fail to tell you that your own salary will be comparably higher by that year."

Got that? You might be paying two bucks a mile, but don't worry. And this is an argument in favor of tolls? Do the math on that one and you'll see it's equal to a gas tax of sixty dollars per gallon on a car that gets 30 mpg. Whenever you hear someone argue tolls are better than the gas tax, remind yourself that tolls are a tax - a much higher one.

ALSO: This Christie quote from a PolitickerNJ article makes me even more fearful these guys are pondering a toll scheme of some sort:

‘I’ve had extensive conversations with Jim Simpson and Jim Weinstein about the Transportation Trust Fund situation, and again, we’re not going to be raising the gas tax,” he said. “Their charge is to figure out how we’re going to fix this without raising the gas tax.”

If you know the state budget, you know there is no other source of revenue for roads in it. And that means Christie and Co. are pondering either raising motor vehicle fees once again or coming up with some sort of a toll scheme. That's the math. And there's no way around it.

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