Thursday, November 23, 2023

A Different Thanksgiving 

This year, Thanksgiving is different. My mother will not be joining us, because she left this life back in June. It was one thing when she stepped back from being the Thanksgiving cook, as she gradually reduced her participation in Thanksgiving from the sole organizer, shopper, cook, and server to a contributor to a guest at the home of younger family members. It’s a totally different thing when she’s not there in person. I am confident she is here in spirit. Yet I am thankful that for a many dozens of years she was with us, and I remain thankful for all that she did for me and our family. For those interested, this is her obituary.

As I have noted in each of the past ten years, “I have presented litanies, bursts of Latin, descriptions of events and experiences for which I have been thankful, names of people and groups for whom I have appreciation, and situations for which I have offered gratitude. Together, these separate lists become a long catalog, and as I have done in previous years, I will do a lawyerly thing and incorporate them by reference. Why? Because I continue to be thankful for past blessings, and because some of those appreciated things continue even to this day.” When I re-read those lists, I realized that the people, events, and things for which I am appreciative are far from obsolete.

So once again on this one day I will look back at the past twelve months, and remember the people, events, and things for whom and for which I give thanks and have given thanks throughout the year. If some of these seem repetitive, they are, for there are gifts in life that keep on giving:

Sixteen years ago, in Giving Thanks, Again, I shared my Thanksgiving advice. I liked it so much that I repeated it again, in 2009 in Gratias Vectigalibus, yet again in 2013 in “Don’t Forget to Say Thank-You”, still again in 2014 in Giving Thanks: “No, Thank YOU!” , even yet again in 2015 in Thanks Again!, even still again in Thankfully Repetitive, yet once more in Never-Ending Thanks, yet even once more in Particularly Thankful This Time Around, again in Quest'anno è il Ringraziamento, once more in Different, But Thanksgiving Nonetheless, again in in Still Different, But Thanksgiving Nonetheless, and last year in One Day of Thanksgiving, A Year of Thanks. For me, it does not lose its impact:
Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Set aside the hustle and bustle of life. Meet up with people who matter to you. Share your stories. Enjoy a good meal. Tell jokes. Sing. Laugh. Watch a parade or a football game, or both, or many. Pitch in. Carve the turkey. Wash some dishes. Help a little kid cut a piece of pie. Go outside and take a deep breath. Stare at the sky for a minute. Listen for the birds. Count the stars. Then go back inside and have seconds or thirds. Record the day in memory, so that you can retrieve it in several months when you need some strength.
I am thankful to have the opportunity to share those words yet again. And I am thankful that it is possible for even more of us to do all of those things, and for others of us to most of those things.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Why Is Road Repair and Maintenance Funding So Difficult for Public Officials to Figure Out? 

Concerns about highway repair and maintenance funding continue to grow. Reader Morris directed my attention to a letter to the editor of the Everett, Washington, Herald newspaper responding to an article addressing the question. The letter writer proposed increasing funding by repealing tax exemptions for “vehicles owned by the state, the counties, the municipalities, school districts, fire departments,” along with “other special fuel use tax exemptions.”

Here’s the problem with this proposal. Requiring states, counties, municipalities, school districts, and fire departments to pay fuel taxes means that those entities would need to increase other taxes to provide the funds with which those entities would pay fuel taxes. In effect, that shifts the cost of road repair and maintenance to people paying other taxes who do not necessarily use the roads or use them minimally and are already paying fuel taxes or the alternative surcharge for electric vehicles. As for the special fuel exemptions that the letter writer mentions, those apply “boats or farm machinery or construction equipment (a very broad set category) as well as ferries, and passenger-only ferries, Even aircraft fuel.” Though the letter writer complains that “The actual cost of supporting the state highway infrastructure falls on the personal private non-exempt automobile owner,” it makes no sense to impose fuel taxes to support road repairs and maintenance on boats, ferries, airplanes, and farm equipment because they do not use the roads.

Reader Morris also directed my attention to a referendum in Perris, California that puts to the voters a proposed special business license tax on warehouses. This tax would provide funding for repairs and maintenance of roads in Perris that have been identified as heavily used by trucks servicing warehouses in the city. The rationale for the proposal is that these trucks are causing the roads to deteriorate faster than they otherwise would. There are several flaws in this proposal. It imposes the tax on only some businesses that are serviced by trucks. It doesn’t correlate the computation of the tax with the weight of the trucks and the frequency of their arrivals and departures from the warehouses. It appears that the proposal did not get the required two-thirds approval from voters.

Of course, readers of MauledAgain know, and the writer of the letter in Washington and the officials in Perris would know, if they read MauledAgain, that the answer to road repair and maintenance funding is the mileage-based road fee. I’ve written about this easy-to-apply-and-enforce concept many times, including posts such as Tax Meets Technology on the Road, Mileage-Based Road Fees, Again, Mileage-Based Road Fees, Yet Again, Change, Tax, Mileage-Based Road Fees, and Secrecy, Pennsylvania State Gasoline Tax Increase: The Last Hurrah?, Making Progress with Mileage-Based Road Fees, Mileage-Based Road Fees Gain More Traction, Looking More Closely at Mileage-Based Road Fees, The Mileage-Based Road Fee Lives On, Is the Mileage-Based Road Fee So Terrible?, Defending the Mileage-Based Road Fee, Liquid Fuels Tax Increases on the Table, Searching For What Already Has Been Found, Tax Style, Highways Are Not Free, Mileage-Based Road Fees: Privatization and Privacy, Is the Mileage-Based Road Fee a Threat to Privacy?, So Who Should Pay for Roads?, Between Theory and Reality is the (Tax) Test, Mileage-Based Road Fee Inching Ahead, Rebutting Arguments Against Mileage-Based Road Fees, On the Mileage-Based Road Fee Highway: Young at (Tax) Heart?, To Test The Mileage-Based Road Fee, There Needs to Be a Test, What Sort of Tax or Fee Will Hawaii Use to Fix Its Highways?, And Now It’s California Facing the Road Funding Tax Issues, If Users Don’t Pay, Who Should?, Taking Responsibility for Funding Highways, Should Tax Increases Reflect Populist Sentiment?, When It Comes to the Mileage-Based Road Fee, Try It, You’ll Like It, Mileage-Based Road Fees: A Positive Trend?, Understanding the Mileage-Based Road Fee, Tax Opposition: A Costly Road to Follow, Progress on the Mileage-Based Road Fee Front?, Mileage-Based Road Fee Enters Illinois Gubernatorial Campaign, Is a User-Fee-Based System Incompatible With Progressive Income Taxation?. Will Private Ownership of Public Necessities Work?, Revenue Problems With A User Fee Solution Crying for Attention, Plans for Mileage-Based Road Fees Continue to Grow, Getting Technical With the Mileage-Based Road Fee, Once Again, Rebutting Arguments Against Mileage-Based Road Fees, Getting to the Mileage-Based Road Fee in Tiny Steps, Proposal for a Tyre Tax to Replace Fuel Taxes Needs to be Deflated, A Much Bigger Forward-Moving Step for the Mileage-Based Road Fee, Another Example of a Problem That the Mileage-Based Road Fee Can Solve, Some Observations on Recent Articles Addressing the Mileage-Based Road Fee, Mileage-Based Road Fee Meets Interstate Travel, If Not a Gasoline Tax, and Not a Mileage-Based Road Fee, Then What?>, Try It, You Might Like It (The Mileage-Based Road Fee, That Is) , The Mileage-Based Road Fee Is Superior to This Proposed “Commercial Activity Surcharge”, The Mileage-Based Road Fee Is Also Superior to This Proposed “Package Tax” or “Package Fee”, Why Delay A Mileage-Based Road Fee Until Existing Fuel Tax Amounts Are Posted at Fuel Pumps?, Using General Funds to Finance Transportation Infrastructure Not a Viable Solution, In Praise of the Mileage-Base Road Fee, What Appears to Be Criticism of the Mileage-Based Road Fee Isn’t, Though It Is a Criticism of How Congress Functions, Ignorance and Propaganda, A New Twist to the Mileage-Based Road Fee, The Mileage-Based Road Fee: Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Than the Alternatives, Some Updates on the Mileage-Based Road Fee, How to Pay for Street Reconstruction, and Stop the "Stop EV Freeloading Act" Because The Mileage-Based Road Fee Is a Much Better Way to Go.

I continue to wonder. Why is it taking so long for government officials and voters to figure out what needs to be done and to take steps to make it happen? I know, I know, it’s a matter of politics, money, and misinformation. As is the case with too many other issues.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Another Wealthy Stadium Owner Grabs Taxpayer Money 

Here we go again. Those who read MauledAgain are familiar with my opposition to public funding of, and tax breaks for, businesses owned by multimillionaires and billionaires. I have written about this problem, particularly with respect to public financing for the sporting dreams of billionaires, in posts such as Tax Revenues and D.C. Baseball, four years ago in Putting Tax Money Where the Tax Mouth Is, Taking Tax Money Without Giving Back: Another Reality, and Public Financing of Private Sports Enterprises: Good for the Private, Bad for the Public, Taking and Giving Back, If You Want a Professional Sports Team, Pay For It Yourselves; Don’t Grab Tax Dollars, Is Tax and Spend Acceptable When It’s “Tax the Poor and Spend on the Wealthy”?, Tax Breaks for Broken Promises: Not A Good Exchange, Tax Breaks for Wealthy People Who Pretend to Be Poor, When One Tax Break Giveaway Isn’t Enough, It’s Not Just Sports Franchise Owners Grasping at Tax Breaks, Grabbing Tax Breaks, Sports Franchises, Casinos, and Now, a Water Park, and Tax Breaks For Starving Team Owners.

Now comes news that the Wisconsin legislature has passed, and the state’s governor intends to sign, legislation that shifts almost half a billion dollars from taxpayers to the owners of the Milwaukee Brewers so that the stadium in which they play can be repaired. I’ll leave to the engineers the question of whether one building that needs that much money for repairs should be fixed or demolished. The legislation succeeded even though the Brewers have sufficient funds to pay for the repairs.

When the legislation passed, a Brewers official stated, ““It’s a great day for the franchise but I think an even greater day for the state.” But is it a great day for taxpayers in the state who aren’t fans of the Brewers?

The governor justified his support by noting that the money will create jobs. On that theory, perhaps all jobs should be financed by taxpayers. Of course, that would make no sense. Just as many jobs would be created if the Brewers paid for their own repairs, just as other property owners pay for their own repairs. Isn’t it interesting that the same politicians who object to government programs to help poor people fix their homes are ferociously eager to use taxpayer funds to help wealthy individuals and corporations fix their properties? There’s some hypocrisy lurking behind this charade.

Of course, the team used the well-worn threat of leaving town if they didn’t get taxpayer money. Then let them leave. If Milwaukee is a great place to have a baseball team and stadium, then free market capitalism will entice another set of owners to move to Milwaukee. And if that doesn’t happen, it demonstrates that Milwaukee cannot support a baseball team in a free market capitalism world. So be it. Interestingly, after making that threat, Brewers officials backed off. Apparently that sort of threat doesn’t make for good public relations.

Supposedly the public funding is palatable because the team is kicking in about 20 percent of the cost. Using that approach, ought not taxpayer funds be used to finance 80 percent of whatever it is that someone wants to purchase? Or is that deal reserved for the wealthy?

Some Republicans in the Senate balked at the original funding plan, and scaled back the state’s contribution from $411 million to $386 million, while the city and county of Milwaukee would kick in $135 million. So where do they get the funds? Unlike the deal in Buffalo that I criticized in Tax Breaks For Starving Team Owners, they apparently aren’t chopping $800 million off the funding of the state’s equivalent of New York’s Office of Children and Family Services. No, instead, they have added a $4 “surcharge” on tickets to non-baseball events and an $10 “surcharge” on luxury suite tickets to non-baseball events. I wonder how baseball fans would react to a “surcharge” on baseball game tickets to fund opera, ballet, and symphonies.

The supporters who claim that it makes sense to fund the wealthy because doing so benefits the public and creates jobs ignore the logic that taking this approach in a fair manner requires public funding for almost everyone, because almost everyone engages in employment, activities, and enterprises that benefit the public and creates jobs. Why doesn’t the person who hires contractors to repair their home get this treatment? Because that homeowner lacks the resources to fund politicians’ campaigns, to hire lobbyists to pressure public officials, and to pay marketers to make the public think that government funding for the stadiums owned by wealthy individuals and corporations is a wonderful thing to do. Worse, they manage to impose “surcharges” on people who are not necessarily fans of baseball or the Brewers. These supporters of public funding for stadiums proclaim their worship of free market capitalism, but when free market capitalism fails to help the wealthy achieve a goal, they are quick to jump in with what gets condemned as socialism if that sort of assistance is proposed for the poor and middle class who encounter free market capitalism failures. The hypocrisy is disappointing and dangerous.

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