New tax proposals: ‘If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street’

New tax proposals: ‘If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street’

Record-Journal
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"Taxman," written by George Harrison, shown here in a 1964 photo, was the opening song of the 1966 "Revolver" album. By that time the Beatles were subject to a British income supertax. | AP Photo/David Anthony Fine Art, Mike Mitchell

A friend of mine likes to tease me about “your Beatles,” a reference to my having been around to tap my toes during Beatlemania. The Beatles broke up in 1969 or 1970, depending on how you look at it, so having been around during Beatlemania puts you in a dwindling population.

Of course, you don’t have to have been around during Beatlemania to enjoy the Beatles, any more than you needed to be around during Mozart’s time to enjoy Mozart’s music, but it’s hard not to suspect a special connection.

So a certain toe-tapping ditty popped into my head this week, which goes like this:

“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street / If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat / If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat / If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Taxman!”

It was prompted by a story in the Washington Post about how a group of East Coast states, including Connecticut, are looking at charging motorists for the miles they travel (“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street”).

This struck me as a particularly onerous tax that raises the question of why anybody would consider it a good idea. But, as the Post reported, the I-95 Corridor Coalition, representing 16 states and the District of Columbia, applied for a federal grant last month to test it out.

There’s always a rationale, and in this case it’s seen as an alternative to taxing gas, considered “no longer a viable option,” according to a Delaware transportation official.

“The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1993,” reads the Post article, “and many states have not indexed their own gas taxes to inflation, so those key funding sources have fallen far behind the nation’s needs.”

It’s also worth noting that vehicles are more fuel efficient and alternatives, like electric vehicles, are increasing in popularity. The gas tax just doesn’t do it the way it did before.

A survey found the mileage tax was “unwaveringly unpopular,” which the lyric from the Beatles’ tune sums up nicely. Taxing the street sounds like taxing the air we breathe (which is sort of already done, when it comes to pollution).

A few news outlets (Hartford Courant, CT News Junkie) followed up, reporting an assurance from the state Department of Transportation that there were no plans to implement a mileage-based tax, even though Connecticut joined four other states in applying for a $2.1 million study of the idea.

And for the time being, at least, there does not seem to be much support.

“If you thought the idea of tolls was unpopular, just wait until you try to tax Connecticut residents for every single mile they drive,” said state Sen. Toni Boucher, a Wilton Republican who serves on the Transportation Committee. “The tax will hit drivers every day. It will hit you everywhere you go, even if you are driving to a hospital emergency room.”

“Taxman,” an angry rock song if there ever was one, was the opening song on the “Revolver” album of 1966, a time when the placement of a song on an album held significance. Written by George Harrison, it was a complaint against the heavy taxation of the British government (“that’s one for you, nineteen for me” — meaning a 95 percent tax rate).

Of course, people have been complaining about taxes for as long as there have been taxes. Our nation’s inception, which we celebrate on Monday, was one of the greatest tax complaints of history (Boston Tea Party, “no taxation without representation”).

We still complain.

They already “tax the street,” as in when we pay tolls. Paying by the mile seems a little too Big Brother, a little too intrusive. At least at the moment.

But will the time come? My guess is yes.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jefferykurz.


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