Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh, yeah - more "f.u.d.d"

(That would be fear, uncertainty, doubt, and deception as mentioned in the prior post.)

There's an old saw that goes something like "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with, and I'm being polite here, Bravo Sierra.

You'd be right, I suppose, to wonder how I would know of such a 'saw.' Well you can keep wondering.

I'm about to coin a related saw which goes something like this: "If you can't dazzle them with logic, beat their butts with potholes."

I'm referring to what I will call "seat of the pants politics." By that I mean that letting roads go to hell, or threatening to do so, is a proven and effective way to get folks clamoring for more government spending. Arguments in the abstract for "more fairness" or "greater opportunity" or "cleaner this or that" can fall on their faces.

But rattle the bones of your typical Maine driver until his dentures pop out, or almost as effective, threaten to do so, and you can probably get him and her to say "please, please raise my taxes," or at the very least, "don't you dare cut my taxes."

And that's what's happening on the Question 2 Issue, which proposes to lower the excise tax on automobiles.

The prevailing argument of the opposition is that "excise taxes go directly to maintaining our roads" or subtle variations on that theme. Our trusty local paper has editorialized against Question 2 on that very basis. In essence, vote for Question 2, and your butt will be sore and your car will fall apart.

Well, here's the problem with such assertions. I can't find anything to confirm them. I've followed town budget cycles for more than ten years, and I don't ever once recall seeing a direct connection between road repairs and excise tax revenue. As far as I'm concerned, excise tax revenue is as fungible as most other sources of town revenue. They go into the total revenue line, against which expenditures are debited.

Nor am I aware of any state law or town ordnance that directly links and restricts excise tax revenue to road repair accounts, or that prohibits other revenue from being used to work on roads.

As a curiosity, Maine's constitution mandates that gasoline tax revenues be limited to specific uses, yet our legislature, with consent from our Governor, has frequently raided these amounts to pay for other expenses. And there is no practical way to stop them from doing so, I'm sad to say. Our Constitution is only as inviolate as the integrity of those who swear to uphold, protect, and defend it.

So, cutting the excise tax will reduce the income derived from that source. But the only way it will reduce the care of our roads is because our "public servants" decided to take it out on your butts as a way to get your attention and support for higher taxes by other means.

You could call it revenge, but I won't stoop as low as those arguing against the measure.

Other Side, after-all, has its own reputation to protect, as you well know.

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