Via Wired, the Los Angeles Times reports on a scheme to fight global warming. Or, rather, I should write that the scheme is claimed to fight global warming, although the specifics (unsurprisingly) suggest otherwise. Consider:
Motorists in Los Angeles County could end up paying an extra 9 cents per gallon at the gas pump, or an additional $90 on their vehicle registration, under proposals aimed at getting them to help fight global warming.
Voters would be able to decide whether to approve a “climate change mitigation and adaptation fee” under legislation being considered by state lawmakers and endorsed by the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
So state lawmakers are offering a Pigovian tax, right? Their interest is in countering the negative externalities of carbon pollution, right? You know the answer, right?
The money would fund improvements to mass transit and programs to relieve traffic congestion at a time when transportation dollars from Washington and Sacramento are hard to come by.
Of course. Sin taxes always purport to be about reducing the offending behavior, but are never actually designed to correct the problematic outcomes. The politicians always end up saluting General Fund.
And it often comes with “words mean what I say they mean” baggage.
[Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn] also objected to the measure’s being called a “fee” — which requires a simple majority for approval — instead of a “tax,” which requires two-thirds approval.
[Assemblyman Mike] Feuer’s bill would allow the MTA board to ask voters either for a fee of up to 3% of the retail price of gas, or for a vehicle registration fee of up to $90 per year. The money would pay for programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Want to bet how quickly lawmakers would revisit “3% of the retail price” tax if the retail price of gas falls, lowering tax receipts? Bonus points to anyone who can find an example of Assemblyman Feuer endorsing an expansive governmental role in lowering the price of gas. Oh, wait, scratch that. Finding an example is actually quite simple. Surprise!