« Agriculture

Virtue or practicality on Michigan's roads with Karl Guenther

by Dan Cash

Don’t you wonder how the Amish community is reacting to the recent proposals out of Lansing - - and some other state capitols - - regarding imposition of special road use fees to be set against the operators of the hybrid automobiles - - and the all-electrics, too, I would assume.

We do see license plates, or reasonable facsimiles attached to the rear of those horse-drawn carriages, so I assume there’s some relationship between the operators of those carriages and state government - - a relationship not too far removed from that acknowledged by operators of those other vehicles that use the  state road system, but do not get much of their propulsion by way of a gasoline pump.  Some, like the Amish carriages never visit a gasoline pump.

The state of Virginia is a little ahead of us in this regard.  They’re already debating and defending a hundred dollar fee proposal, included in a transportation fund package signed by their governor.  Electric and hybrid owners are calling it a tax on virtue.  I think that’s stretching it a bit.  I’m pretty sure a lot of those buyers made the purchase because such vehicles wouldn’t burn nearly as much gasoline as did the vehicles that used to be seen in their driveways, and even though they paid more than usual for such vehicles to begin with, they could anticipate gaining at least some of it back every time they didn’t pay eighty dollars for a 20-gallon fill-up, at $4.00 a gallon.

Now - - if the Virginia proposal survives, and something similar comes out of Lansing, our electric and hybrid owners are sure to throw the same kind of a fit, for the same reasons. Some of them no doubt made the move for all the pro-environmental reasons, but most of them were tired of waging the guessing game battle of when the gas pump prices were going to jump up or down by 20 cents a gallon.  Families that have, for generations, relied solely on horse-drawn carriages never were plagued by the cost of gasoline, even though they did use the roads and highways (although not the Interstates).  But whVIat about now?  Heretofore, taxes on motor fuel, and registration fees funded road building and maintenance. But, with so many electric and hybrid vehicles on our roads - - really, that many? - - the road tax money isn’t coming in nearly fast enough to keep up.  One needs only drive down Michigan roads in any part of the state, and one will bump into one of those representations of failed road maintenance.

So, something must be done.  Since everybody benefits from a good road system, Maybe it’s fair if everybody pays - - like another penny of sales tax, or a fractional increase in state income tax.  Collecting road maintenance funding at the gas pump was doomed from the beginning.

Horse-drawn carriages couldn’t do it alone; but along comes a mobilization unit that requires little or no gasoline, and those pumps are pumping only gasoline, not money...

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached atkhguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.