Instead of levying road-construction fees or taxes on vehicles by weight, or emission output, some bureaucrats and industry insiders are considering at least one breath-takingly brain-locked idea: levying a hefty
fee fine on hybrid-vehicle owners because they are using less fuel and thus are supplying fewer gas tax dollars to the state road-building.
"No," you say: not even in Scott Walker's fossil-fuel worshipping, highway-happy Wisconsin could such an environmentally-and-fiscally punitive idea be under consideration.
And you would be wrong.
I've been meaning to showcase this nugget from one of Larry Sandler's comprehensive Journal Sentinel transportation stories, so here it is:
The Transportation Finance & Policy Commission, an advisory body created by the Legislature, is trying to find a way to pay for growing transportation needs at a time when state residents are driving less and turning to more fuel-efficient vehicles, cutting into the gas tax revenue that now pays much of the cost of roads and buses.So the reward hybrid owners in Wisconsin like my wife and I could receive for driving a hybrid - - we have owned a Honda Civic hybrid since 2006 - - could be a discriminatory fee increase for using less of a finite resource, and emitting fewer greenhouse gases into the air?
One option would be to tax drivers by miles driven instead of gas purchased, either through installing tracking devices in everyone's cars or through asking drivers to report their odometer readings, said Beth Nachreiner, the panel's staff director. That likely would raise privacy concerns, although it eventually may replace gas taxes nationwide, said Kevin Traas, director of transportation policy and finance for the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association.
Another option would be to add $75 to the annual registration fee for hybrid and electric vehicles, to recoup some of the $125 a year that their owners save on gas taxes, Nachreiner said.
Why not charge a tobacco-cessation fee to people who quit smoking because they aren't paying cigarette sales taxes anymore?
Why not? Because it's a stupid idea, that's why, as counter-productively stupid as adding a whopping add-on charge to hybrid vehicle registration fees.