Wayne Scott wants a gas tax increase.

He may not want us to say it, but that's what the story is, Harry Esteve reports in the Oregonian.

Back in May:

"House Democrats are proposing a gas tax increase to make drivers feel more pain at the pump," it said. House Minority Leader Wayne Scott sounded scandalized.

"Oregon's average gas price is the third highest in the nation," his quote read. "Now Democrats want working families and small businesses to pay even more."

The release was widely ignored. Two Democrats had indeed sponsored a gas tax bill, but it went nowhere. Big deal.

And now?

A group of seven lawmakers from both parties has been meeting about a possible transportation package. Oregon's highways are getting more and more bogged down with traffic, which makes people grumpy and late for work and hurts the economy by tying up trucks and commerce. ...

But at the latest meeting, another money-raising idea cropped up. Increasing gas taxes somewhere north of 20 cents a gallon could raise close to $800 million a year, which is what state transportation officials say they need to keep up. ...

No, what surprised people at the meeting was the source of the latest gas tax suggestion.

"Rep. Scott was the one who asked that it be included," said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, one of the participants. ...

"You've got to put this in context," Scott said, when asked about his apparent mood switch. "Please don't say, 'Wayne Scott wants a gas tax increase.' "

So, is it going to happen?

Hunt said his preference is the increased fee approach. But the deal he made with Scott was, if House Republicans put up 17 votes, Democrats would supply the remaining 19 needed to pass a revenue-raising bill. ...

Scott said he took the proposal to his caucus. No dice. How about the fee increase proposal? Ditto.

But, hey, it's the final weeks of the session. And, as lawmakers prove with each passing day, anything's possible.

Discuss.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    As someone who has a fair amount of economics background, I'd note that economists would want any transportation package passed to "improve the economy" to be compared with other possible investments.

    The studies I've seen from the business community put benefits (through some overgenerous assumptions) at between equal to and twice the costs of investments. Compared to other public investments and things we could do with $800 million a year, my guess would be this isn't the most efficient way to improve the economy.

    Of course, I don't know if there are any economist representatives in the Legislature, nor would they likely be listened to.

    But if you want to improve the economy, expanding roads isn't likely a way a smart person would do it.

    Amazingly, when folks say they want government to run like a business, they conveniently don't want to do this sort of analysis.

  • TR (unverified)
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    Any transportation funding package that includes increasing the gas or a motor vehicle registration fee increase must be coupled with a new tax equity mindset from the legislature whereby the users of alternative modes of transport become financially responsible and directly charged to pay for the infrastructure that accommodates those specific modes. The new paradigm must include a bicycle tax directly assessed on only bicyclists and the bicycle mode of transport that is levied at no less per year than the price of registering and licensing an automobile. This new bicycle tax would then be used to pay for bicycle infrastructure replacing the poached one percent of the transportation funds drivers pay, and thereby requiring bicyclists to accept some financial responsibility for the infrastructure they use instead of just providing lip service.

    Increased transit fares must also be coupled with any motorist assessed tax increase for the purpose of covering a far greater share than the current 21% of the transit operating expenditures, and better reflect the true costs of providing the service for systems like TriMet. Surcharges on transit fares must become an essential financing component and tool to help to pay for new transit infrastructure. Flashy transport concepts such as building streetcar systems could only be constructed if they can prove financial self-sustainability and not interfere with other vehicular traffic on any of the proposed routes

    With user tax equity for all modes of transport, the revenues derived from taxes and fees assessed on motorists and motor vehicles could only be a utilized to pay for roadway projects, and no longer exploited to subsidize other freeloading and subsidized modes of transport, or the roadway treatment and facilities for those other modes of transport.

    Finally, there must be no attempt to ration roadway usage through any payment method charged motorists that adds to the costs of driving, or by passenger counts. Rationing roadway usage gives preference to the affluent and then becomes discrimination by class.

  • (Show?)
    The new paradigm must include a bicycle tax directly assessed on only bicyclists and the bicycle mode of transport that is levied at no less per year than the price of registering and licensing an automobile. This new bicycle tax would then be used to pay for bicycle infrastructure replacing the poached one percent of the transportation funds drivers pay, and thereby requiring bicyclists to accept some financial responsibility for the infrastructure they use instead of just providing lip service.

    Why does this absurdity keep repeating? From which planet of confused beings does this absolutely ludicrous idea emanate? For God's sake, if you simply took the licensing fees charged to motorists and offered them to people to use their bikes to commute to work instead, the entire transportation infrastructure problem would vanish like Emilie Boyles.

    As may not have occurred to the author of this proposal, bicycles have a physical impact on road surfaces that can accurately be called negligible, they make almost no noise whatsoever, require no fuel or fueling stations to operate, take up almost nothing in terms of parking, and emit no pollution. And you want to tax their impact on the city? Which impact would that be, exactly?

  • (Show?)

    I guess their impact is that since they take up space on the roadway (or bike lanes to be more specific) which would otherwise be used by vehicles that DO degrade infrastructure, pollute, negative;y impact the city, make us fund authoritarian Islamic theocratic regimes, that they are impacting the the city, but I would posit in the best since of that word, not the negative one which the ludicrous argument put forward by some (cough... TR ...cough) seem to imply.

  • (Show?)

    Why should bikes be charged as if they were an automobile? They take up a heck of a lot less road (their lane is less than half the size of a road lane), they don't do damage to the road like vehicles do, they don't pollute, etc.

    Not that I'm against some kind of licensing system for bicycles, or at least their riders. Just something so that those riding recklessly could be easily identified by police and be turned in like any other vehicle, and maybe a test to make sure they know the rules of the road like everyone else. But I don't think the charge should be something all that high, and the money could be put into further development of bike routes and the like.

    Transit isn't the only thing subsidized by taxpayers. Roads, bridges, etc. are as well. And many of the people who ride transit do have vehicles, they choose to keep a car off the road by riding transit where they go. But they're still paying vehicle registration fees and such as well.

    We've got to stop all this anti-alternative transportation crap and realize that for a healthy and viable metro area that we have to have a mix of transportation choices. We need to have the ability for people to drive in, bike in, or ride the bus/MAX. You can only build so many roads. There are only so many places to park. And as the population within the Portland metro area expands (Gresham will soon hit 100K, by the way), we have to have these choices or we're all going to be in big trouble.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    I thought tax laws were supposed, at least on some occasions, to encourage people to do good things. So why would we tax bicyclists to discourage them from a practice that is healthful for people and good for the environment?

  • Hawthorne (unverified)
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    "So why would we tax bicyclists to discourage them from a practice that is healthful for people and good for the environment?"

    We shouldn't and won't. This is a movement of one. Kudos to TR for staying on message like a carnival barker...but really, don't you have anything more productive to do?

  • nutmeg (unverified)
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    Portland and Multnomah county should take care of their needs and wishes for transportation boondoggles w/out involving the rest of the state.

  • (Show?)

    There's a big difference between "boondoggles" and basic stuff like fixing bridges. Several of the bridges in Portland are owned and operated by Multnomah County.

  • nutmeg (unverified)
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    Exactly my point Kari, why should the resy of Oregon pay for Multnomah counties choice of delayed maintenance? Was money diverted to other underutilized mass transit schemes?

  • (Show?)
    why should the resy of Oregon pay for Multnomah counties choice of delayed maintenance?

    a) because we all live in the whole state b) and because Multnomah residents pay for the rest of Oregon's roads (and schools, and police, etc.)

  • TR (unverified)
    (Show?)

    “bicycles have a physical impact on road surfaces that can accurately be called negligible”

    On an average two lane street with bike lanes in each direction that has also room for parking on both sides, the bike pair of lanes take up approximately the same amount of pavement as one of the auto lanes, or about one fifth of the total pavement on the street. That can hardly, or even accurately, be called negligible - especially when the costs of construction go well beyond just paint on blacktop and include such things as; specialized signalization at intersections, street makeovers in Portland costing four to seven million dollars per street to call them bicycle boulevards, adding bicycle infrastructure to bridges such as the Hawthorne and Morrison Bridges in Portland, the Springwater Trail and the three bridge project , the East Bank Esplanade, the bicycle trails along freeways like I-205, the proposed bike infrastructure on the Columbia Crossing to accommodate 200 bicyclists a day, etc, etc, etc.

    What is absurd is that freeloading bicyclists are not directly taxed even a dime and accept zero financial accountability to help pay the hundreds of millions of dollars for the price tag of the exclusive infrastructure they currently use for free. What is absolutely ludicrous is that these same bicyclists are the ones with the loudest voices for increasing the gas tax and raising taxes on others so more money can be rustled from drivers for their own selfish requests. What is reality is that the average working person who commutes by car no longer has representation in the legislature because they can‘t be heard over the hullabaloo commotion generated by a few slacker bicyclists who egotistically think they are God’s gift to society by pedaling their ### all over town, but are financially irresponsible when it comes to paying for their share of the infrastructure they use. It as if these parasites feel they were born with silver spoons in their mouths and feel society should reward them for not directly paying taxes. If anybody is confused it is the freeloader bicyclists that believe society owes them a free pass.

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