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Virginian Republican legislative initiatives New mathhave earned the Commonwealth unpleasant nation (and global) wide attention in recent years.  Whether the abuse of public resources to undermine Virginia's academic reputation with anti-science legal shenanigans (2010 to present); the social, moral, and medical outrage of trying to require unnecessary ultrasounds on women seeking to execute their Constitutional right to control their own medical destinies (2012); or the anti-democratic efforts to redistrict (out-of-cycle) to manipulate the Commonwealth's Senate districts and to shift the Electoral College votes from Virginia to skew away from voters' intent, Virginia's GOP has provided lots of substantive reasons for intensely outraged attention to their anti-science, anti-constitutional rights, and anti-democratic tendencies.

These flashpoint issues have masked other serious issue after issue.

While the threat to the Electoral College and the legislation to redistrict the Commonwealth's Senate seats are capturing the majority of attention, Governor Bob McDonnell's very troubling and damaging transportation proposal is receiving minimal (if any) national attention.  And, this matters.  For example, McDonnell's (damaging, non-sensical, backwards moving, etc ...) proposal to eliminate the Commonwealth's tax on gasoline would make Virginia unique of the 50 states in not having a user tax on fuel to help pay for transportation costs.  With polluter interests heavily behind this, it is not hard to imagine that having this become law in Virginia will quickly become leveraged for legislative action across the nation.  We will have a shift from the lunacy of 2008's discussion of a "gas tax holiday" to a nation-wide call by the "Drill, Baby, Drill" crowd for "No Gas Tax".  This bad policy, damaging on fiscal and environmental grounds, will resonate politically and must be snuffed out at its source before it becomes a conflagration flaring up in state after state.

Within McDonnell's plan are a litany of problems such that discussing them takes more pages than the (long) proposal itself and thus they merit addressing one after another (after another after another after ...) in separate discussions.  This post thus turns to a one particular angle of consideration of one of the bad proposals in the bill:  Bob's punitive $100 fee on alternative fuel vehicles.  The full section is available here and the New Math analysis occurs after the fold, here are the key paragraphs as to punitive (let's support gas guzzlers) alternative vehicles fee:

While the governor’s plan will eliminate the Virginia gasoline tax, the federal gas tax of 18.5 cents will remain. The majority of federal gas tax revenues are returned to the states for transportation projects, and Virginia typically receives approximately $1 billion per year in federal gas tax revenue. And the more alternative fuel vehicles on the road, the less of a share Virginia will get of that federal tax.

Therefore, the governor’s plan proposes an additional $100 fee for alternative fuel vehicles to ensure that these drivers continue to contribute to Virginia’s transportation networks, which they use every day.

While there has been real outcries about this ridiculous fee on alternative fuel vehicles/hybrids -- where there is a "user fee" imposed on hybrid drivers (that is unassociated with actual use) while removing the major user fee (gasoline taxes) -- this fee is truly reminiscent of the "New Math" craze ...

Join me, after the fold, for a discussion of how Bob McDonnell's 'new math' would make Tom Lehrer proud (... or cry ...).

Let's work through this ...

  • A hybrid vehicle is roughly 25% more efficient than its equivalent non-hybrid.
    • The Prius is 50 miles per gallon.
    • A 'non-hybrid' version might be about 40 miles per gallon.
    • Thus, the difference between a high-end hybrid and the equivalent non-hybrid, mile driven, is roughly 1/5th the level of tax.
  • $100 fee against the 18.5 cent federal gas tax.
    • At 18.5 cents, it is 5.4 gallons per $1.00.
    • To achieve $100 requires buying 540 gallons of fuel.
      • At 40 mpg, this would translate to 21,600 miles of driving.
      • At 50 mpg, this would translate to 27,000 miles of driving
  • Looking at differential in another angle, the difference is 1/5 of the gas tax
    • For having a hybrid car rather than non-hybrid, the Prius (or Ford Fusion C-Max or ...) would have to drive five times as far to meet the $100 savings.
    • E.g., the Prius driver would have to drive 135,000 miles in order to meet the $100 difference between owning a hybrid and a non-hybrid vehicle
    • That 135,000 miles represents roughly 10 years of driving.

Governor McDonnell seeks to justify a punitive $100 fee on alternative-fueled vehicles due to the asserted loss of gasoline taxes. The "lost" gasoline taxes represent roughly the lost gas tax equivalent of 10 average driving -- are you starting to feel like Governor McDonnell is lost within New Math?

And, the Governor's "New Math" has yet another problem in its logic.  The Commonwealth of Virginia imposes a three percent sales and transfer tax on vehicles.  "Generally, a hybrid vehicle can be as much as 20 percent more expensive than its counterpart powered by a conventional gasoline engine."  Thus, a new Prius might cost $24,000 when an equivalent quality, fuel-efficient non-hybrid would run perhaps $20,000.  Thus, the hybrid owner pays $120 in additional tax which, again, represents more than 10 years of lost gasoline taxes.

Governor McDonnell's transportation has a section, beginning on page two, entitled: "Math Problem Background".

As the example provided here shows, the reality is that Gov. McDonnell's wrong-headed transportation concept is filled with problem math used to support problematic policy constructs.

And, let us be clear, the proud Virginia Grand Oil Party's new math (in)competency extends well beyond hybrid vehicles. This transportation bill has inventive mathematics in assertions that it provides enough resources. And, of course, it is only the GOP that believes having a majority of Virginians (and Pennsylvanians and ...) voting for the Democratic Presidential candidate should mean that 10 of Virginia's 13 Electoral College votes should have been awarded to Mitt Romney and not PresidentHybridparade14-1.31.13 Barack Obama in 2012.

Of course, the 'hybrid' tax issue is far from only a question of the questionable mathematics behind it. A group of hybrid drivers protested in Richmond Thursday:

"I invested in a hybrid car to do my part to make the air we breathe cleaner and our climate safer," said Chester resident Laurel Snode, owner of a hybrid Honda Insight and a participant in the car parade. "We wouldn't tax non-smokers to fund more public ash trays. Punishing Virginians who want to be part of the solution and pollute less makes absolutely no sense. It will only do more harm."

Originally posted to Virginia Kos on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 06:23 AM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Not even hiding it now. Shameful. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John Crapper, akeitz, Lujane

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 06:38:01 AM PST

  •  It occurred to me the other day that perhaps (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, John Crapper, semiot

    the missing link in the binary brain is akin to the function sign in an equation. Imagine the left side of an equation in which there are two factors and, typically, between them there is a sign (+,-,x, etc) that tells what's to be done. Now imagine that those signs were either missing or replaced by ?

    What would happen? Nothing. Without a specified function, you get nothing. That is exactly, I suspect, what the denizens of the party of no experience.  
    However, though there are no functions, no processing going on, accumulation can occur all on its own. The binary brain can just sort of collect and accumulate information like a big vaccum or sponge. And it can be squeezed out. But, there is no change.
    We started out with adding machines and then other functions were added. Then we went from numbers to letters of the alphabet to process not just quantities, but language and information.
    Maybe binary thinkers are stuck at the adding machine stage, which, btw, was already left behind by the abbacus.
    Maybe a cash register would be a better model.

    Could I make more sense, if I weren't math challenged?

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 06:54:27 AM PST

  •  Maybe he's been told by the oil companies to stop (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, John Crapper

    this hybrid crap. Similar to what happened years ago in LA to dismantle a great mass transit system. All of these Dumbos are slow witted, led easily by treats, dump big piles of crap, scared of tiny things and ignore the really big dangers.

    Why do people vote for them?

    Fear is the Mind Killer...

    by boophus on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 07:02:44 AM PST

    •  Actually ... (4+ / 0-)

      another discussion of the Transportation bill / McDonnell on transportation will look at the potential fossil foolish role.

      1. The 'end gas tax' as a foot in the door for a nation-wide effort. Note that fiscal analysis strongly supports the case that a good part of the gas tax going away would going into the profits of the well-to-gas station businesses.  And, well, perfect "anti-tax" Republican rhetoric even though this is really a user fee rather than "tax" and, of course, utter ignores the secondary impacts of 'externality' costs.

      2.  The hybrid as an attack on fuel efficiency and a promotion of more fuel use -- and feeding directly into anti-green Tea-Hadist sentiment.

      3.  The "Coalfields Highway" being promoted which is actually a path to use Federal Highway dollars to support/enable a massive expansion of mountain top removal in the Commonwealth. (A coal company would be the highway contractor and the highway map conveniently goes through lots of mountains that they want to level to get at the coal.)

      4. Minor money to transit, in total, while spending money on roads, roads, roads to enable burning more gasoline.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 07:12:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  there seems to be a recent spate (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, John Crapper, akeitz, semiot, A Siegel

    of tax wingnuttery on the part of Republican governors, where perfectly good (or at least reasonably good) tax policies are replaced by senseless and regressive taxes.

    It's a bit more sophisticated than the usual "no taxes" Republican mantra. They are posing as "reformers" trying to "fix" the tax system. This is an argument that holds a great deal of currency as many people agree it needs significant fixing, except they are "fixing" it in a regressive rather than progressive direction.

    I think it's a bit of a misnomer to call this "anti-tax." This is really a systematic project to shift the tax burden from the richest to the poorest--in this case, from polluters to the rest of us.

    The gas tax is an excise tax, meaning that it is paid directly by the seller. They pass much of the cost on to the consumer by raising prices, but at least the revenue is plowed back into goods and services for state citizens, namely transportation projects and road maintenance.

    But suppose the gas tax was eliminated? Would gas prices really fall? Probably they would remain about the same. So the cost of fuel for Virginian taxpayers remains more or less the same. But now the money that would have gone to the state as tax revenue remains in the hands of oil companies, creating a revenue shortfall.

    Because Gov. McDonnell brags so much about deficit reduction, this revenue shortfall will have to come from somewhere--namely the Virginia taxpayer. The net result will be a tax shift from oil companies to consumers.

    This brand of wingnuttery is dangerous because it is so difficult to unravel and explain just where the money is going. People will be seduced into supporting it by the prospect of cheap gas and two years later they will wake up to shitty, broken-down roads and buses and trains, while gas will be just as expensive as it always was.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 07:05:50 AM PST

  •  I totally abused this in my Volt (8+ / 0-)

    Last year I drove 20,000 EV miles in my Volt and only purchased gas as I had to as the gas in my Volt was a year old.   Amount of gas purchased, 4.5 gallons. or $18.  I figure I avoided burning 800 gallons (take that OPEC!)

    Now I am not opposed to an alternative vehicle tax.   I drive the way I do, to avoid using gasoline, not to avoid paying for road taxes.

    However, charging EVs while at the same time removing gasoline tax altogether does not make sense.   It seems to penalize fuel efficient vehicles.   VA already has about the fewest incentives of any state for any form of alternative energy.   It does not need any de-incentives.

    •  Well ... (0+ / 0-)

      1.  You did have the tax on purchase.

      2.  There is the externality of reduced pollution (noise, air, otherwise) from driving the Volt rather than putt 16,000 lbs of carbon into the atmosphere (with a social cost of carbon accurately at $100 to $1500 per ton, this would be a $800 to $1200 value due to reduce pollution).

      3.  If we are going to have a fee, make it weight based along with # of miles driven.  Your Volt at 20k miles vs my Prius at 7500 vs a hybrid pickup that drives 40k.  Calculate weight + miles driven -- heavier the vehicle, greater the damage to the roads per mile.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 02:51:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's right out of the CONservative playbook (4+ / 0-)

    1) Play Santa Claus the GOP way - cut taxes. Nobody likes to pay taxes. And nobody notices right away what happens when the government has less money to pay for things that people need.
    2) Give people a scapegoat - blame liberals with their elitist hybrids for depriving the state of tax money, using the roads that everyone else pays for.
    3) As things deteriorate, blame it all on "government never works", so what did people expect would happen?
    4) Never let them realize electing crooks and con men to govern them is the real problem. Keep giving them distractions and exploiting cultural hot points; practice the politics of division.

    As more states sink into one party conservative rule (through gerrymandering and outright purchase via the Kochs, ALEC, Crossroads GPS, etc.) expect to see more of this madness. Conservatives hold so firmly to their principles because they know facts are their enemies, and Reality is hostile territory.

    You can't spell "conservative" without having a "con" in there somewhere.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 07:28:12 AM PST

  •  And then there is this from the governor: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    semiot, A Siegel

    "Bob McDonnell’s “Road for Nobody” near Hampton Roads insults Northern Virginia" in which you just have to look at that map. Since those are "private/public" with an Australian company betting big time on toll Beltway lanes I keep wondering about corruption and greasy palms.

    The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

    by pelagicray on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 09:14:05 AM PST

    •  I don't wonder -- I am certain!!! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diana in NoVa, A Siegel, pelagicray

      I live off of the oldest turnpike in America -- that is the original private road, Little River Turnpike in Northern VA. This road was built in the 18th century to get travelers from Alexandria, VA to Aldie, VA which the Little River bisects, hence the name.  The unincorporated town I live in began as a toll house along this private road.

      This road suffered mightily in the boom and bust cycles of the 19th century in America and apparently was often in disrepair. It finally reverted to state control in 1896.

      This was also the case with the other Pikes in Virginia.  If private roads made economic sense, all of the pikes around here would never have reverted to state control!

      To contrast, New York governor Dewitt Clinton built the Erie Canal as a state infrastructure project and wouldn't you know it, New York  became America's economic powerhouse in the 19th century.

      Flash forward to modern times.  Given this historic knowledge I was certain that the Dulles Greenway project was a boondoggle -- heck it nearly failed 20 years ago and had been limping along since,now there's talk of the state buying out the Australian owners.  Grrrr.

      I was dead set against the HOT lanes and for sure they have negatively impacted my neighborhood and made traffic on roads feeding into the beltway worse not better.

      My state senator Chap Petersen bless his soul, realized the folly of private roads a few years back but it's hard to be a voice of reason in a sea of insanity that is my commonwealth.  SIGH.

      •  Yep, we here in NOVA are full of those old private (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        akeitz, A Siegel


        As for the HOT lanes, the part I just "loved" was the provision that if enough of us carpooled and rode free as HOV-3 we taxpayers would have to start paying that company! In my view that was one of two things: corruption or contract incompetence. Essentially we have state officials remove risk from the private venture.

        Now, in a government contract to do something, build a space shuttle, the government may accept or share risks and choose a contract type appropriate to doing so. For more mundane projects, building a road, a form of fixed price bid where the contractor estimates risk, factors it into the bid and then bears all responsibility is chosen. That would have been if Virginia built the HOT lanes and took the tolls.

        For a private venture scheme? I think "inappropriate" is the word. First, since construction is "privatized," was the company under any real pressure to control cost when there was a profit guarantee built into the scheme?  I suspect a real independent audit of the entire scheme would show, as many government "contracting out" certainly are, boondoggling under the current political pressure to privatize even our combat arms (remember all those mercenaries in Iraq?).

        There are very valid reasons to contract out. A particular one is where the projects will be short term so that you do not want long term personnel costs for short term work. Few government agencies need software system engineers and system developers in-house, though a few with such skills to know about the contracting is useful. Under GOP pressure we have gone way beyond to insanity, even contracting out some of our contracting functions; once very strictly a core government function.

        As an aside are you as furious as I about the demise of our once near perfect on line state tax filing? That was one of the best such portals I've ever seen. So, all of a sudden I've got to buy the service or meet income limits to get free "commercial" service. If collecting tax isn't a core government service I don't know what is!

        Screw the bastards in Richmond and employ some low level state tax people in the process examining my handwritten returns. I demand a paper return since with them paying the postage. It took me about ten minutes to build a spreadsheet to do the return. I'm for all of us going to paper until they bring back the great old system.

        The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

        by pelagicray on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 03:15:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wow, I never knew about the tax portal (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel

          I was a paper filer until about ten years ago and I just used Turbo Tax.  I never heard about the free state web portal.

          You're totally correct about what you say about contracting.  I was one of those many contractors performing what was a core government function before getting in the door for real.  And yea the risk being assumed by the state is so, so very wrong (not a contracting officer in RL but in Acq).

          •  Tax portal was at the department's web site and (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel

            was downright elegant. It was The error checking was precise and there was none of that "error on line x" crap. It explained the error. It sometimes gave you advice on entry to the effect that people commonly failed to add things that reduced taxes. In short, it made TurboTax look like a clunker and I use that for federal. I got in the habit of budgeting about fifteen minutes to do and file state tax from the get go. At the end you could do electronic transfer in or out of accounts depending on payment or refund. You got an instant receipt and the form, using very good security was available the next year.  Your return data was electronically displayed for saving or printing.Part of the security, along with password and such was the precise amount paid or refunded the previous year. Everything was also confirmed by e-mail.

            I kid you not, I once opened it to do taxes two days before flying overseas. I got the e-mail of refund, checked my account less than 48 hours later and knew my refund was in my account before flying out.

            So, what did the GOP legislature do? Abolish it. Now we can, if low enough income, get free tax support through commercial sources on line. Everyone else pays. They said it was not a core function if I recall. If assisting citizens in paying what is due in taxes to the state is not then the damned legislators are not either! It was, if some rumors are true, a GOP cave to the commercial tax companies like TurboTax to quit taking their state form business. I just about bailed on TurboTax in retaliation.

            I am firm in applying for the paper forms and instructions, sent by the state to me at several dollars postage. I figure I pay the bastards back by:

            Making them mail the forms and support the U.S. Postal Service

            Making them handle my handwritten forms using state employees who are not corrupt politicians down in Richmond

            It is all part of the GOP plan to demonstrate how government does not work by wrecking it while screwing the taxpaying citizens. Personally, I'd love to file on the parchment forms made from the hides of those idiots! Hell, I'd overpay just for the privilege.

            The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

            by pelagicray on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 07:49:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  This "end the gas tax" stuff is part of a pattern (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    with McDonnell. He's also very enthused about drilling off Virginia shores, for example. Methinks he has ambitions and believes that he will have access to cheap fuel to power them going forward, as a result of these lamebrain polices.

    Virginia's "sic semper tynannis" prohibition on governors succeeding themselves handicaps Virginia politicians seeking the starring role on the national stage. So McDonnell is carping the diem while he can.

    Courage is contagious. - Daniel Ellsberg

    by semiot on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 09:57:43 AM PST

  •  THANK YOU for working out what this means in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    terms of punishment for hybrid drivers! I nearly spat out my teeth when I read about this in the WaPo and my teeth are still all my own.

    McDonnell is deranged.  How people could have been fooled by him I'll never know--I never was.  He is proof why Rethugs must NEVER be allowed to hold political office--they're too dangerous.  A Siegel has recited a catalogue of ills that have befallen this state since we've had a Rethug legislature and a Rethug gov., lt. gov., and ayatollah general.

    I hope this stupid plan of Stealth Guv's gets shot down.  Of course, he's hoping to run for POTUS in 2016.  Fat chance.  No one with a measurable IQ would vote for him in the national.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 10:15:39 AM PST

  •  The best explanation: Kicking Hippies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    McDonnell wins support for the 2016 Repug nomination for President (or a Senate seat) by scoring points against evil libruls.

  •  VA: git ur cigs,gas n guns CHEAP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    Seriously,??.... tax hybrids for not using enough gas, and remove the state gas tax because persons are not driving enough??? Ole Virginny- bootleggers dream spot:Get your cig's, gas, N'guns ..REAL Cheap.


  •  Extra points for the Tom Leher reference (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    They surely understand what they are doing, and it won't lead to the right answer.

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