I thought this was popular?
There are many competing agendas when it comes to the Governor’s Transportation Climate Initiative. Based on the actions of the governors of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut, there is a big gap between supposedly widespread public support for an idea — deal with climate change, even if we have to pay more — and raising actual taxes to change actual real-life behavior. Generally people don’t want to change, and don’t want to pay — or perhaps more to the point, enough people don’t want to pay that it becomes a political headache for these governors. It doesn’t have to be a majority.
This is going to take a full-court public relations press to remind voters of the stakes. This is, first and foremost a climate initiative. Everyone who lives on planet Earth should support TCI. It is in fact is not nearly ambitious enough. But the way that we can enable more ambition is by supporting this measure to the hilt. And that means that I (of all people) have to get Governor Baker’s back.
Urgent doesn’t describe what we’re up against: The house is burning down as we speak, and the 1.5°C “limit” is … now essentially out of reach. This chart from CarbonBrief.org makes the challenge pretty clear. We can’t afford a glide path for falling carbon emissions — we need a cliff.
But Rep. William Straus is leery on relying on the TCI for transit funding. He’s skeptical, for some good reason, that the Governor can stick the landing, getting other states involved. Given that these observations are self-fulfulling prophecies, and given the utter malevolence of the Trump administration, I think Straus should be more supportive: We should be working on an interstate level. But Straus’s motivation is simply getting his part done, which is securing funds for transportation. If he doesn’t think TCI will do it, then he doesn’t support it.
That’s a rather different thing from the stance of NH Governor Sununu and VT Governor Scott. Sununu gets a lashing from Yvonne Abraham for his “short-termism”, which is the standard Republican attitude — even though New Hampshire would benefit quite a bit from investments in transit, especially in rural areas.
Those in Western Mass. see TCI as an opportunity to add some meat to what bones of transit they have. Absolutely, significant investment in transit outside of Greater Boston should be part of a grand bargain. Rural commuters — on the Cape, the Pioneer Valley, the Berkshires — they deserve convenient, pervasive transit options — much better than they’ve ever gotten from Beacon Hill.
But look … at some level we’re talking about a cultural shift to save the world. We do need to value things differently; we need to come together, and yes, sacrifice some things now so that we don’t lose everything in the future. I don’t see any way around it.
And in any event, the amount of gas tax extra is trivial compared to the total cost of owning a car; or the volatility in gas prices; or the difference between owning an efficient car versus an inefficient one. We can’t say “Yes let’s save the planet!” on one hand, and then cry foul about $0.16/gal extra in gas tax, which comes out to all of $2.40 per 15-gallon (!) fill-up. That’s literally the price of a cup of coffee. Honestly I doubt that would even put a dent in gas consumption — hence the need for an even larger tax if you’re going to send a “market signal”. How much — another dollar per gallon? That wouldn’t even put us within sniffing range of gas taxes in Europe: Germans pay $5.84 per gallon! But what do you value more — gasoline, or a planet for your kids? Yes, you have to choose.
You can object that a gas tax is regressive, penalizing lower incomes; but I’d counter that a lack of transit is even worse. There’s nothing more expensive than requiring someone to own a car, which is what we do all the time
by default — no, it’s not by default, it’s on purpose, with money: By building, expanding, and maintaining car roads rather than sustainable infrastructure.
Incidentally there was a hearing yesterday for erstwhile Rep. Jen Benson’s carbon tax bill, H.2810 (since taken up by Rep. Bill Driscoll), which explicitly provides for a progressive, equitable distribution of revenues from the tax to benefit low-income communities in a variety of ways.
When do we start making a different choice? When do find the revenue, and just turn on the spigot to start the benefits coming? How about now?