Monday, July 12, 2010

Skid Marks on Taxation Road

COLUMN NOTES: I wonder if Steve Earle would mind if I used his music from this awesome song and re-wrote the lyrics for one I'd title Taxation Road.

HARBESON: Watch out for taxation road’s potholes

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — When Clark County politicians were considering whether or not to implement the wheel tax yet again, I noticed some erratic driving on taxation road.

Some officials headed to the no-tax ramp from the start. Later, when others noticed the skid marks made by angry voters, they merged over too, so the wheel tax failed to pass.

In other words, they saw the light — the one emitting from all the headlights on the voter’s cars that were headed right for their jobs, so they got the heck out of the way.

Politicians know that if they put too many tax dents into citizens, they start sputtering and leaking anger and so they decided, this time, that one more tax dent might just be “too much.”

However, even when politicians say they are taking action for the taxpayer, there’s always at least one who feels the need to lecture them. This time it was Barbara Hollis, telling taxpayers that the wheel tax is really not a tax, but rather a “user-fee.”

It’s a common tactic, to change the terminology to make a government action sound more palatable. I hope most of you see this for what it is — a desperate attempt to take you for a ride down propaganda road.

Common sense tells us this is not a user-fee. It’s not at all based on actual road usage. If it were, the little old lady who only drives her car to church on Sundays would certainly not pay the same as the little old lady who likes to put on her scarf and cruise county roads in her convertible.

If we’re going to discuss usage, then let’s calculate the actual miles of county roads we all use per week and analyze the results. And while we’re at it, let’s consider how many of those 500 miles of roads many wheels have never traveled on and never will.

If there was a way to pay for use, and also be sure the money’s actually spent on maintenance, I bet most would be happy to do so. Especially if means we could get far, far away from political manipulation.

Of course, the problem of building and maintaining roads is not just the fault of local governments. The federal government forces us to build roads in order to bring money back into our community and little consideration is given to maintenance issues.

Certainly it will take work to figure out smarter ways to maintain roads that have already been built on this faulty model. It’s hard to go backward. But we can change our actions going forward for new roads.

Clark County has the perfect opportunity to learn how to build and operate roads based on usage with Star Hill Road. I would love to see this road become privately owned and operated. If there truly is a demand for this road, then let some group take it on and reap any profits from doing so.

If it’s impossible to make the road completely private, it’s certainly possible to operate according to actual usage by implementing a toll. If it does become a toll road, businesses who would benefit would still have lots of options. For example, they could give a discount equal to the toll price to any customer who spends a certain amount at participating businesses.

Who knows, this road could become so successful that other roads going up the hill hardly ever get used. Then those could be shut down, thereby reducing maintenance costs for the county.

No matter what happens with Star Hill Road, it’s time to pave a new path of alternatives because it’s obvious that taxation road is full of irreparable political potholes.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson gets angry when she sees politicians driving on taxation road but she usually feels better after kicking some asphalt.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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