Same Song, Second Verse . . .

 
Snyder

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

If you want to understand why the Republican Party is such a disappointment nationally, you ought to come to Michigan and watch our governor, Rick Snyder, and the Republican regulars in the state senate and the state house who follow his lead. It is almost as if they all came from Central Casting – I mean, the Chamber of Commerce.

As I mentioned in a post a couple of months ago, the Republicans in last year’s lame-duck legislature, at Snyder’s behest, scheduled a ballot initiative for May 5 of this year aimed at adding a penny to the state sales tax and at putting some (but by no means all) of the revenue gained into a kitty for the fixing of roads.

In Michigan, the Republicans have since 2010 controlled the governorship and both houses, and they have not been able to summon the courage to trim some parts of the state budget in order to reallocate funds for the roads (which, everyone agrees, are a disgrace). In fact, in the four years prior to May 2015, the state budget increased by $4.7 billion under Republican stewardship. But we still spend less per capita on roads than any other state in the union, and the results are exactly what you would expect. To someone driving through, Michigan in 2015 makes West Virginia in 1955 look like a paradise.

So, just as if they were Democrats, the Republican regulars pushed for a tax increase aimed at bringing in an additional $2 billion, and they did not even have the gumption to design the increase in such a way as to allocate more than half of the new revenue to repairing our roads.

Nor was it the case that Michiganders were undertaxed. As things stand, our taxes are high. Had Rick Snyder and his acolytes gotten their way, Michigan would have had the second highest state sales tax in the nation.

And, on the 5th of May, Snyder and his merry men got what they deserved. As I reported the next day, although the proponents of the initiative outspent the opponents more than twelve-to-one, the voters rejected it by a margin of four-to-one.

That should have ended it. That should have forced Snyder and the Republicans to rethink – to take out their scalpels, cut, and reallocate. But it did not have that effect.

Instead, they are now on a crusade to raise the tax on gasoline. As things stand, Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in its gasoline taxes. Only California, New York, Hawaii, and Connecticut take more. We have an excise tax of 19 cents a gallon, a sales tax of 6 percent, and an environmental regulation tax on gasoline. All in all, at current prices, it comes to 39.4 cents per gallon. To the excise tax, Snyder and his supporters within the Republican Party want to add another 15 cents per gallon. If this goes into effect, Michigan will have the second highest gasoline tax in the country. When one adds in the 18.4 cents per gallon that currently goes to the federal government, by 2017, if prices were to remain stable, we would be paying almost 73 cents in taxes on every gallon of gas we buy. Given the sales tax, which will vary in the dollar amount it generates as gasoline prices wax and wane, if prices were to go up, we would be paying even more than that.

The pertinent bill passed the Michigan state senate by a 20-19 vote on 1 July with 18 Republicans and one Democrat voting for it; with nine Republicans and 10 Democrats voting against it; and with Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley casting the tie-breaking vote.

Next week, it goes to the state house. Perhaps there Snyder and the Republican regulars will have another comeuppance. I certainly hope so. But I am not holding my breath. The Republican Party in this state – which is, thanks to Barack Obama, in a commanding position in state government – seems to have a death wish. Given the rebuke delivered to them on the 5th of May, if they go forward with this they are apt to be demolished in 2016 and 2018. Why vote Republican when there is little or no difference between the two political parties?

There is a way to deal with our roads without raising our taxes, and some Republicans in the state house have identified it. One could increase the excise tax on gasoline and eliminate the sales tax entirely. The money raised by the latter goes entirely to education; that raised by the former is supposed to go to roads (though it is often diverted for other purposes).

The size of the school-age population in this and other states has gone down dramatically in recent years as the baby boomlet passed. There is no reason at all not to reallocate state funds to roads, and there are a great many reasons why raising taxes in a state where taxes are already high is a very bad idea. Unfortunately, the wing of the Republican Party that takes direction from the Chamber of Commerce has not a clue.

There are 42 comments.

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  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I could support the new gas tax.  But first I need to know what taxes they are cutting to pay for it.

    • #1
  2. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Paul A. Rahe:
    Why vote Republican when there is little or no difference between the two political parties?

    Why, indeed?

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    Paul A. Rahe: Why vote Republican when there is little or no difference between the two political parties?

    Why, indeed?

    I voted for whatever wacko the Libertarians were running the first time Rick Snyder was on the ballot. Snyder seemed to me the type of person who thinks government should be run like a business, which usually results in bad government and a bad environment for business.  And he hadn’t done anything to incur the hate of the left, other than the usual background level they have for anyone not of their own.

    I admit to voting for Snyder for re-election.

    • #3
  4. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    The Republican Party is useless. I left it two years ago. And with all due respect to Ghost, I want a party that actually believes in things like nationhood and sovereignty and borders, thanks.

    • #4
  5. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    The Reticulator:I could support the new gas tax. But first I need to know what taxes they are cutting to pay for it.

    Nah. Cut non-highway spending funded by gasoline taxes first. Eliminate things like bike routes, jogging trails, etc. on which highway funds are being spent. Then come back to me and talk about raising gasoline taxes.

    Seawriter

    • #5
  6. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    I never thought I’d say this, but there actually is a state with dumber Republicans than Washington.

    In general, I find allocating certain taxes to certain expenditures to be a problem. It’s not like I allocate Tuesdays’ work to groceries, Thursdays’ to fuel, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays to the mortgage. Wouldn’t it be silly to tell my family we only go out to eat if I happen to get overtime on particular days of the week? All of my revenue goes into the one account from which all expenses are paid.

    Money being fungible and all that, I think a single tax for each level of government should be enough. I know they’d never go for that because then we’d see exactly how much they confiscate and demand fiscal responsibility.

    • #6
  7. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    Question:  What is the biggest difference between a Republican politician and a Democrat one?

    Answer: The (D) or (R) behind their name. Other than that, they are the same egomaniacs who believe they know better how to spend OPM (Other People’s Money)

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I’ve said it before, the only fair tax is a head tax. Then we’ll see how long either party survives their stupidity.

    Government: “Your Federal tax for this year as a citizen is $35,000. Pay up.”

    Stupid Citizen: “But, I only make $20,000. How can it be that much?”

    Oh, I do have fantasies.

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    Paul A. Rahe: Why vote Republican when there is little or no difference between the two political parties?

    Why, indeed?

    That only works until they are elected. Then they become indistinguishable from any other party. Sorry to be the one to break the news, man.

    • #9
  10. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Douglas:The Republican Party is useless. I left it two years ago. And with all due respect to Ghost, I want a party that actually believes in things like nationhood and sovereignty…

    That seems to be assumed by Libertarian Party support for national defense and representative government.

    and borders, thanks.

    Libertarian thought on immigration includes recognition that massive law violation hints at bad law. Enforce the law, yes. But don’t pretend our legal immigration process isn’t broken. If you need information about that, I’ll refer you to British, Icelandic, and Indian colleagues who are here on work visas or stuck somewhere on the path to citizenship.

    As always, it’s not that there are no reasonable criticisms of the Libertarian Party. It’s just that I haven’t seen any of them show up here. Instead, we get uninformed stereotypes that can be refuted just by bothering to read the party’s actual platform.

    • #10
  11. iDad Inactive
    iDad
    @iDad

     Great Ghost of Gödel:

    Instead, we get uninformed stereotypes that can be refuted just by bothering to read the party’s actual platform.

    Don’t you read what other libertarians have written on Ricochet?

    Or were those invocations of the international right to travel written by SoCons?

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Seawriter:

    The Reticulator:I could support the new gas tax. But first I need to know what taxes they are cutting to pay for it.

    Nah. Cut non-highway spending funded by gasoline taxes first. Eliminate things like bike routes, jogging trails, etc. on which highway funds are being spent. Then come back to me and talk about raising gasoline taxes.

    Seawriter

    Which do you think is a more effective rhetorical approach to concentrate people’s minds on the bottom line — which is that we cannot allow the state to control a larger portion of the economy than it already does?   Which is going to motivate people to take responsibility for evaluating priorities on their own rather than just reacting to conservative or Republican priorities without taking any responsibility on their own for the total package?

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I should also point out that in my own county in southern Michigan, in which roads are worse than in any of the surrounding counties, part of the problem was the county road commission.  (And in our county, unlike any other county (I have been told) the county highway department maintained the state roads.)  A couple of conservative Republican county commissioners cleaned up the operation – in part by abolishing the existing road commission.  The commissioners looked into the possibility of criminal prosecution, but decided that there were no grounds for it – it was just a case of bad, inefficient, and perhaps corrupt management.  The result is that we now have a more efficient operation.  The county gets a lot more roadwork done for the money, and we’re starting to see the results in our local roads.  It will take a long time, but things are getting better.

    If we’re going to get as much as we can for the money I am willing to have higher gas taxes.  But the proponents need to take responsibility for sustainability, and sustainability means not taking over an ever-larger portion of the state’s economy.   So if we need to increase taxes in one place, we need to decrease them elsewhere.

    The bottom line should be the overall take by the government.  If we eliminate spending on bike paths and then still don’t have enough money to fix the roads, are you willing to  increase taxes overall? I am not.

    • #13
  14. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    iDad:

    Don’t you read what other libertarians have written on Ricochet?

    Or were those invocations of the international right to travel written by SoCons?

    Beats me. Got a link or two?

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    iDad:

    Don’t you read what other libertarians have written on Ricochet?

    Or were those invocations of the international right to travel written by SoCons?

    Beats me. Got a link or two?

    You can certainly find some of their comments on this old thread of mine.

    • #15
  16. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Great Ghost of Gödel:Libertarian thought on immigration includes recognition that massive law violation hints at bad law. Enforce the law, yes. But don’t pretend our legal immigration process isn’t broken. If you need information about that, I’ll refer you to British, Icelandic, and Indian colleagues who are here on work visas or stuck somewhere on the path to citizenship.

    If a great mass of people suddenly decide they want my stuff, ,does that then mean that laws protecting my stuff are bad because large numbers of people want to break it?

    • #16
  17. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Douglas:

    If a great mass of people suddenly decide they want my stuff, ,does that then mean that laws protecting my stuff are bad because large numbers of people want to break it?

    No. But if large numbers do break it, that tells you some combination of things in some degree:

    1. The incentives to break the law are more attractive than those to obey it.
    2. The law is unenforceable.
    3. The law is at odds with popular will.

    Libertarianism largely focuses on the first possibility, strongly influenced by the second. Fix legal immigration, and you change the incentive balance between legal and illegal immigration. Again, this is something easily understood by listening to real and prospective legal immigrants—i.e. those for whom the incentives not to immigrate aren’t worse than those to immigrate illegally, as they overwhelmingly are for illegal immigrants from Central and South America. The problem is politics, not poverty, as again the lack of illegal immigration from India shows.

    With respect to the second point, the Prohibition experiment put paid to the “unenforceable laws are peachy to Americans” account, in theory. But here we are, pretending the War on Drugs works and we can keep people from coming here when they’ve decided they will, or they’ll die trying, cf. Elián González’s mother. All Libertarianism asks is that we be honest about the cost/benefit ratio of these things—and offers some individual-liberty-based principles to apply to the questions.

    • #17
  18. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    Libertarian thought on immigration includes recognition that massive law violation hints at bad law.

    It can also hint at special interests conspiring to subvert an OK law.

    • #18
  19. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    I only support gas taxes under two conditions:

    1) 100% of revenue raised goes to road maintenance.

    2) 100% of the cost of road maintenance is paid for out of the gas tax.

    In other words, not only should gas tax revenue never be diverted for other uses, but no revenue from other sources should ever go to road maintenance either. This is the only way to ensure that the cost of roads is being paid for by the users of those roads. The amount of the gas tax should therefore fluctuate from year to year as the cost of road maintenance fluctuates.

    (The main weakness of this idea is that a metric whack-load of truck traffic to and from Canada passes through Michigan. If the gas taxes are too high, those truckers are gonna fuel up in Ontario, Ohio, or Indiana rather than filling up in Michigan. On the other hand, I suspect this happens already.)

    • #19
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    1. The incentives to break the law are more attractive than those to obey it.

    2. The law is unenforceable.

    3. The law is at odds with popular will.

    You forgot:

    1. The people in charge of enforcing the law have no desire to do so, despite the popular will. So, the law goes unenforced.
    • #20
  21. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Arahant:

    You forgot:

    1. The people in charge of enforcing the law have no desire to do so, despite the popular will. So, the law goes unenforced.

    Absolutely, and I just sent my son and his girlfriend, who took a summer internship in San Francisco, a “be careful” e-mail a few days ago, in which I used the phrase “insane ‘sanctuary city’ policies.” My objection is to a one-sided look at immigration—in particular, one that justifies increasing police militarization, raids on private businesses, intrusion into private records, etc.

    Fix legal immigration. Enforce the law (but this just begs the question “What happens if they don’t?” Answer: innocent people who can’t legally carry guns in public get gunned down by illegal immigrants with illegal guns).

    See why “enforce the law” doesn’t have much persuasive power? While we’re at it, I want a pony. I have a positive right to a pony.

    • #21
  22. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    I keep saying we need to start a new party, call it USIP if you like.  But we need something that will go after spineless Republicans just as hard as they go after soulless Leftists.

    • #22
  23. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Robert McReynolds:I keep saying we need to start a new party, call it USIP if you like. But we need something that will go after spineless Republicans just as hard as they go after soulless Leftists.

    http://www.constitutionparty.com/

    • #23
  24. Pugshot Member
    Pugshot
    @Pugshot

    Misthiocracy

    I only support gas taxes under two conditions:

    1) 100% of revenue raised goes to road maintenance.

    2) 100% of the cost of road maintenance is paid for out of the gas tax.

    In other words, not only should gas tax revenue never be diverted for other uses, but no revenue from other sources should ever go to road maintenanceeither. This is the only way to ensure that the cost of roads is being paid for by theusersof those roads. The amount of the gas tax should therefore fluctuate from year to year as the cost of road maintenance fluctuates.

    (The main weakness of this idea is that a metric whack-load of truck traffic to and from Canada passes through Michigan. If the gas taxes are too high, those truckers are gonna fuel up in Ontario, Ohio, or Indiana rather than filling up in Michigan. On the other hand, I suspect this happens already.)

    I agree. As a Michigan resident, I was prepared to support an increase in the sales tax, but the Legislature overreached and wanted to obtain more money than was necessary to fix the roads, and then divert the balance to who knows what? And the same is true of their plan to hike the gas tax; there is no guarantee that the funds collected will be spent only on road repair – and that only the amount necessary to that end will be collected. I just can’t support a system that would open another never-ending source of revenue for the politicians.

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    Curious: the Chamber of Commerce specifically asked for taxes to be raised in order to support new road construction?

    • #25
  26. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Misthiocracy:

    Robert McReynolds:I keep saying we need to start a new party, call it USIP if you like. But we need something that will go after spineless Republicans just as hard as they go after soulless Leftists.

    http://www.constitutionparty.com/

    I’ve said on occasion that what we actually need is the intersection of the Libertarian and Constitution parties.

    • #26
  27. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    Misthiocracy:

    Robert McReynolds:I keep saying we need to start a new party, call it USIP if you like. But we need something that will go after spineless Republicans just as hard as they go after soulless Leftists.

    http://www.constitutionparty.com/

    I’ve said on occasion that what we actually need is the intersection of the Libertarian and Constitution parties.

    I would intersect there.

    • #27
  28. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    Paul A. Rahe: Why vote Republican when there is little or no difference between the two political parties?

    Why, indeed?

    Because while under Republicans our descent into ruin (fiscally and every other way) is freefall, under Democrats it is rocket-propelled.

    They are the least worst alternative.

    The GOP “leadership” however does not appreciate how close to a mutiny the troops are. If the GOP FUBARs 2016, or stabs its voters in the back if they happen to win it all, it’s effectively over for it. It will become a rump party nationally like it is in Illinois.

    • #28
  29. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    akarra:Curious: the Chamber of Commerce specifically asked for taxes to be raised in order to support new road construction?

    I seem to remember ads from a couple months ago specifically paid for by the chamber, yes.

    • #29
  30. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    It’s hard to believe that politicians don’t know what “fungible” means.

    • #30

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