Most people don’t care what government calls the process of taking money out of our pockets. Whether the process is referred to as levying taxes, collecting fees or charging penalties, it still hurts.
So many in West Virginia will take with a grain of salt a boast in the long-awaited recommendation on how to raise more money for highways.
Members of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways are finalizing a report on how to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year for roads and bridges.
“The recommendations we made don’t raise taxes at all,” commented commission Chairman Jason Pizatella last week.
Strictly speaking, he is correct. The panel is expected to recommend establishing a new $200-per-year registration fee for cars and trucks not powered by gasoline or natural gas. Another $100 annual registration fee would be charged owners of “hybrid” vehicles.
Sales tax money from sales of vehicle parts and repairs would go to the State Road Fund. It now flows into the general fund.
Some other Division of Motor Vehicle fees would be increased.
Tolls scheduled to end on the West Virginia Turnpike in 2019 would be retained. Out-of-state drivers pay most of that road’s tolls.
Leaving aside the fact diverting sales tax money to roads would leave a hole elsewhere in the state budget, the idea has some promise. At least it would collect money primarily from highway users, many of them from outside the state.
Taking money out of our pockets without calling it a tax still leaves us poorer. Still, the panel’s ideas are worth debating in the Legislature.