December 04, 2002
Engine tax proposed

State Rep Warren Chisum, better known for his crusade against gay marriage, has what I think is a pretty good proposal in the works regarding issues of the environment and the budget: Charge a fee for bigger engines.

Cars, off-road equipment and many motorboats and motorcycles would carry a $5 to $7 annual fee to raise money for air pollution-control programs under a proposal today by a Republican lawmaker.

Rep. Warren Chisum, the House Environmental Regulation Committee chairman, said he will file legislation that would require an environmental impact permit sticker on vehicles with a 50-horsepower engine or larger.

"What we are saying is if you have an impact on the environment, that you are going to pay an impact (fee)," Chisum, of Pampa, said after presenting the idea at a clean energy policy forum. "Granted some of you have a greater impact than others, but still everybody has an impact."

He said the fee would raise about $188 million annually through 2007. Lawmakers are under pressure to come up with the funding, which is needed to help bring the Houston and Dallas regions into compliance with federal clean air laws.

Seems eminently reasonable to me. It puts the burden on those who impose a greater cost on the environment. Lord knows, most of the people out there driving F-350s to work have no real need for them. Making them pay a fairer share of the cleanup bill makes all kinds of sense.

As with many things, sometimes the smallest detail is the key:

Chisum's plan could meet some criticism but state money is tight. Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander has projected the state could face a $5 billion shortfall.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov.-elect David Dewhurst and Rep. Tom Craddick, the presumptive speaker of the Texas House, have said they believe they can balance the budget without raising taxes.

"This is not a new tax," Chisum said. "It's a different mechanism for funding the same issue."

Oh, for crying out loud. Call this a "fee" if you must to satisfy Governor Goodhair's promise to never ever ever invoke the T-word. Unless he wants to start holding bake sales, the money has got to come from somewhere. Let's please not get tripped up on semantics.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 04, 2002 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

It is a new tax, and it isn't a good idea for the following reasons:

1) Makes no account of how much a person drives. A person driving a Suzuki Swift can be releasing more emissions than my V8 Explorer because they choose to drive far more than I do. They're impacting the environment more, but I'm being taxed for environmental impact. That's not fair.

2) What about those people that do need their F350 trucks? Why should they pay extra for simply using a vehicle as a part of their work? How about we just call it the "blue collar" tax, because it punishes those people who actually need heavy trucks with serious horsepower.

I understand the money needs to be raised, but I'd rather eliminate the problem at the source, with the EPA's mandate, rather than enacting new taxes. I'd also rather the state government simply cut funds from other areas than do something of this sort - everyone else is suffering from lean times, so why pass the buck?

Posted by: Owen Courrèges on December 5, 2002 12:32 PM

First of all, you can be sure there'll be plenty of cuts. This is expected to raise maybe $150-200 million, a drop in the bucket of the $5 billion shortfall.

Second, your objection about usage could be easily addressed by raising gasoline taxes. What are the odds of that happening?

Finally, if you want to come up with a procedure for determining who "needs" an F-350, I'll be happy to support an exemption for such people. In the meantime, I don't think a $5 annual fee is gonna break anyone, certainly not anyone who can afford a vehicle like that.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 5, 2002 1:26 PM