Open Letter to Council on Transportation Funding Methods.
This is a note I sent to council as a sort of minority report (a minority of one) from the Transportation Funding Working Group. I was the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) rep to this group.
Dear City Council,
I am currently a member of the Transportation Advisory Board and I served as the TAB member to the Transportation Funding Working Group. I am writing you this afternoon on my own behalf.
I think we can all acknowledge two goals and two problems:
The problems are:
1) the corrosive nature of extreme wealth disparity that is only worsening due to the most recent federal tax policy and
2) The lack of funding needed to transform our transportation system that has been auto-centric for almost a century.
1) Transportation equity and
2) Real alternatives that get our citizens where they need to go in ways that reduce our GHG production.
As our funding working group evaluated the list of many, but not all, funding options, I was struck by the fact that virtually every option presented was reliably regressive in nature. Each option created a fee, tax, or charge that was essentially the same regardless of the payer’s income or financial means. I also was struck by how state law makes it almost impossible for a municipality to have a progressive tax of any sort.
After studying the possibilities, I settled on a specific solution: an annual Vehicle Valuation Fee (VVT). This is a simple annual tax on the current value of your vehicle that would be progressive i.e if your Audi or your Tesla is worth a $100k you might pay 2% of the value of that vehicle for the year , if your beater, 20 year old Corolla is worth 1200 bucks you might pay a half of a percent or less.
So why VVT?
First it is a method to fund transportation needs that does not continue to afflict the afflicted; it does not reward the wealthiest among us as our current city, state, and federal tax laws do. If you think about a utility fee or a sales tax you are taxing the people who can least afford it on essential daily needs at the same rate as their wealthy counterparts. We must do better than our federal and state governments.
Second, a VVT it is a transit fee tied to a transit problem. Not a regressive general sales tax or utility fee.
Third, a vehicle is vehicle, is a vehicle. They all take up space, they all add to congestion, and they all kill cyclists and pedestrians. They do so no matter if they are powered by solar, coal, oil, hydrogen or natural gas.
Fourth, It is easily scalable (and in fact preferable) as a county-wide mechanism providing a funding stream for projects that reach beyond our city boarders.
So my request is that stop talking about transportation and social equity goals and ACT in ways that reflect our values and make a progressive VVT the sole or a major component of any transportation funding system.