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EDITORIAL: Virginians don't need higher gas taxes

EDITORIAL: Virginians don't need higher gas taxes

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PHOTO: Pumping gas

LAST YEAR, the Commonwealth of Virginia signaled its intention to join the Transportation Climate Initiative, a coalition of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia, which plans to impose a “carbon tax” on all member states in order to “transition to a more sustainable, resilient, lower carbon transportation sector.”

Sounds good, until you realize that what they’re really talking about is another tax on gas and diesel fuels starting at 18 cents a gallon on top of the gas taxes the General Assembly already raised.

A study by the nonprofit Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy described TCI as “a cap-and-trade scheme for automobile emissions.” Member states would agree to cap regional greenhouse gas emissions, impose a carbon tax on fuel, and reduce road maintenance funds 20 percent by 2022, “eventually causing the current gasoline-based revenues to be reduced to zero as gasoline fuel is eliminated,” according to TJIPP.

And the payoff for making driving in Virginia a whole lot more expensive and less safe? Lowering the Earth’s temperature by an estimated two hundred-thousandth of a degree Celsius (0.000018ºC) by the end of this century. “In sum, TCI has no environmental benefits but would cost Virginians billions. That is an ‘all pain and no gain’ program,” concluded Dr. David Schnare, director of TJIPP’s Center for Environmental Stewardship.

And that was back when the economy was robust. Now even states that are members and prospective members of TCI are having second thoughts. New Hampshire has already backed out of TCI, Pennsylvania is rethinking getting in, and more states could follow.

And a new study by the Center for Policy Analysis at Tufts University estimates that gas prices could go up 38 cents a gallon in member states —more than twice initial estimates. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between member states that was scheduled for next spring has been delayed until the end of 2021 due to the economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Besides imposing a regressive gas tax on rural and low-income Virginians who have suffered the most from COVID-19, joining TCI would also require states to reduce revenue for highway maintenance and new construction at a time when Virginia is still trying to play catch-up from past years of neglect.

Last year, 74 percent of respondents to a survey done in the Fredericksburg region said they were against Virginia joining the TCI. There’s little doubt that the percentage would be higher today. As Virginians try to dig themselves out of the economic pothole caused by the coronavirus, they don’t need higher gas taxes and real potholes to deal with.

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