The Contra Costa Times has given us an interesting new angle to fool the voters into voting for a new gasoline tax in an article titled, “Calling gas tax a ‘fee’ may help at ballot.” In an opinion laced article, the CCTimes is advising politicians to call the tax hike a “fee” instead of a tax to fool the voters into accepting it at the ballot box. Throughout this piece is the obvious assumption by staff writer Erik N. Nelson that the county governments in and around San Francisco are “cash-starved” and that these taxes… oops, I mean fees… are needed because it is important that the governments “look for new funding” for roads and to “curb global warming.” Not a hint that these governments have wasted the money they are already confiscating from the citizens, nor any investigation why some of the highest taxes in the country have not been able to satisfy the needs there. No, instead of an investigation into government mismanagement and waste, the CCTimes and writer Nelson are trying to find sneakier ways to steal the taxpayer’s income by “semantics” and wordplay.

The CCTimes first bemoans that the idea died last time a new gas tax was floated.

In a proposal that fell on deaf ears in Sacramento last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s staff is recommending legislation that would make a gas tax a “fee,” and thus make it easier to prevail at the ballot box.

Gosh, imagine that? The people don’t want more taxes in one of the highest taxed areas in the country, even if the name of the thing is changed! Can you be any more surprised?

But, the CCTimes reports there is a great new idea to come to the rescue: not only call it a “fee” instead of a tax, but claim it is also to help “fight global warming.”

Only this year, transportation officials say, the idea could be more palatable as but one arrow in a quiver aimed at reducing the Bay Area’s contribution to global warming.

The Times alerts us that a “recent poll” found that local area citizens would accept a ten cent a gallon tax if the cash went to “help fight global warming,” so this is what the politicians should claim the tax hike should go for. Of course, Californians already pay 55 cents per gallon in taxes already.

After telling us about the calls by transportation dept. officials and county pols to raise taxes in a myriad of ways to get more money, the CCTimes gives us their assessment of the reason this is all such an emergency.

That means it’s important for the MTC to look for new funding as well as to protect existing sources of transportation funding, such as the fuel tax “spillover,” normally earmarked for transit that was tapped by the governor and state Legislature this year for other programs.

Notice how this sentence is written as fact, and not under the rubric “officials say”? No, it is written as a statement. “That means it’s important for the MTC to look for new funding,” says the CCTimes. The Times is attempting to assure readers that this is a necessity, not just a claim by officials.

Then the CCTimes reports that there is a change being considered in legislation.

The MTC staff is recommending, in a draft legislative program to be presented to the panel’s Legislative Committee on Friday, that commissioners seek state legislation “to amend our existing authority to levy a road user fee” on gasoline, requiring only a simple majority at the ballot box.

Then it’s back to the CCTimes’ opinionizing…

The difference is not simply semantic, the program says: “As a fee proposal, eligible expenditures would have to provide a strong nexus between the fee paid and the expenditures for which the revenues are used.”

That means the money must be earmarked as outlined in the legislation, such as for repairing roadways or buying new transit vehicles.

Does it, indeed? Does anyone believe a politician that says any tax collected will be put in a “lockbox” to be exclusively used for a single, specific expenditure? If any do, they are fools. But, the Times is assuring us that it is so, none-the-less.

And, in the last line of the article, the Times reveals that no one in the legislature is even proposing or considering the proposed tax… I mean fee… idea at all.

Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, a former MTC member, noted that neither he nor any other legislator agreed to carry the legislation earlier this year.

So, how is any of this news? What is this story if not the CCTimes’ attempt to push the idea?

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