2c for your thoughts UPDATED
When the news radio called me about the Mayor’s “decision” to ask for 2c on the gas tax to pay for the region’s share of the Evergreen Line, I did not think I had much to say about it. After all, it was merely a recommendation – and would have to survive the summer and some public consultation. I recognize that the summer is a slow news time, but the amount of coverage this proposal is now getting is surprising me, though not the level of the “debate” so far. Perhaps the least expected contribution came from BC’s answer to Sarah Palin.
“When British Columbians say that they’re not really excited about paying more gas taxes, I get that. Because my focus as Premier is how do we make life more affordable for people rather than less affordable,” she said.
The Mayors were given very little leeway: they have to come up with a payment from this region’s taxpayers since the province and the feds have both already committed at their level. Since the current levels of taxes collected by Translink are only enough to keep on a current levels, the only way to raise $400m had to be an increase in currently permitted taxes. There is no time left in the funding agreement to come up with a new source so it either had to be property taxes or the gas tax, and the Mayors had made clear from the outset the very cogent reasons why property tax was not going to be the way they did it. Indeed, quite why our Premier thinks that the people of this region will like to see their property taxes raised is not exactly clear either. There is a $400m hit to our pockets and the only question is what is the most sensible way to do that. Property tax increases are no more “affordable” than gas tax increases.
As Geoff Meggs points out this also shows some lack of co-ordination inside Christy’s cabinet. Doesn’t she talk to her Ministers? Or is she deliberately trying to weaken Lekstrom?
The Sun gets itself into an interesting position “Transit taxes odious but necessary for growth of our city”. The link says that it is a “story” but there is no by line and it reads like an editorial. They sum up
“In the past, the province has stepped in and vetoed transit fundraising plans, including an earlier vehicle levy and a proposed parking stall tax. We hope that doesn’t happen this time.”
But Christy does seem to be ready to repeat the steps taken by the last caretaker premier, Ujjal Dosanjh – who went down to a stunning defeat in his last provincial election despite his last minute, and probably illegal, rejection of the vehicle levy.
For those of you who are of a mind to stick to the “no new taxes” mantra just take a read of what happened in California when they slashed their car tax. It is becoming very clear that the right wing belief that leaving money in tax payers’ pockets is the right thing to do in any set of circumstances is just that: a belief. Some people believe in Santa Claus too. Faith is holding on to a belief despite all evidence to the contrary. I have always been very much impressed by the American constitution’s requirement of a complete separation between church and state. What I cannot fathom is the right wing’s ignorance of why that is so important.
Added July 13
Blair Lekstrom is now saying that ”he has the full support of Premier Christy Clark in agreeing to Metro Vancouver mayors’ plan for a two-cent gas tax increase for TransLink.”
“I stand behind what I’ve committed to,” Lekstrom said Wednesday, adding he has spoken with the premier and ensured they’re both on the same page.
“Nobody likes new taxes – I would concur with that.”
But he said the mayors can count on the province legislating the fuel tax increase this fall – as he promised – provided mayors formally vote for it in a pending financial supplement after public consultation and review by the TransLink commissioner.
“I will not waver one inch,” Lekstrom said. “This has gone on far longer than I think the public wanted.”
Clark has also penned a letter to mayors pledging her support, he confirmed.