Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Glad To Be Commuting In Virginia

April 18, 2008

I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C., area for more than 17 years now and have commuted from Northern Virginia into the city all of that time except the last few months. I love my new commute to Alexandria, Va., much better for various reasons.

Add to the list the perpetual threat of a “commuter tax” being imposed by the District of Columbia. The idea — one of the most economically foolhardy ideas envisioned by bureaucrats who somehow always manage to best themselves in that area — has been floated for longer than I’ve been in the area, and its fans will never stop fighting for the tax.

They’re not above imposing a commuter tax by subterfuge, either:

The recent clean air bill introduced by D.C. Council members Jim Graham and Phil Mendelson should be called what it really is: a proposal for a de facto commuter tax.

The “Department of Transportation Clean Air Compliance Fee Act of 2008” would impose a fee on all employee parking spaces that do not “generate sales and use tax directed to the District Department of Transportation Unified Fund.”

If enacted, the bill would require businesses to pay $25 per month per parking space in which an employee parks a motor vehicle at least two days per week whether or not those spaces are identified as or even reserved for employees. And although the fee is technically imposed on the landowner, the bill allows the fee to be passed on to whomever uses the spaces — the commuters.

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Big Taxes To Visit Big Sky Country

March 2, 2008

Friends of ours who moved to Virginia from Montana a few years ago are planning a father/son camping trip in Big Sky Country this summer. I’ve always wanted to visit that part of America, especially Glacier National Park, and my son Anthony is close friends with John, one of the sons of our friend Mike who is organizing the trip.

Lord willing, we’ll be making the trip. I booked our flight to Spokane, Wash., this morning. It’s the first flight I’ve taken on our family dime since we brought our youngest daughter, Catie, home from Guatemala in 2005. Now that I’m blogging about taxes, I’m more aware of just how much more it costs to fly because of the government.

Here’s the tab for taxes and fees on our Southwest Airlines flight: $91.76 in U.S. taxes; $35 in “passenger facility charges” (fancy terminology for the head tax airports impose for infrastructure projects); and $20 for the security fees imposed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The bottom line: Our father/son trip will cost $146.76 more thanks to the bureaucrats.

I’m happy to pay the security fee if it keeps us safer while traveling (though I’m not convinced that it does). But it’s infuriating to see just how much money governments get every time someone gets on a plane.

And it was downright sad to learn that airline ticket taxes are such serious business that there’s even a project that tries to make sense of them.

If You Overspend, Cut The Spending

February 25, 2008

Gov. Jon Corzine appears to be fighting a losing battle in his bid to raise highway tolls in New Jersey to address budget woes.

It’s a shame that this needs saying by a newspaper, but I’m glad somebody said it: “Tax increases and fee hikes of any kind should be fiercely resisted until all of the cost-reduction suggestions have been acted on.”

That’s a good rule of thumb for tax hikers and wannabe tax hikers across the country. But the odds aren’t good that they will abide by it. Raising revenue is the easier solution — and too many Americans aren’t willing to throw the bums out for hiking our taxes.

Why voters would rather pay more in taxes to get handouts that cannot possibly equal or exceed the tax bill once you include the cost of bureaucracy is beyond me.

The Tax Hikers Of Philadelphia

February 15, 2008

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutting is happy to talk about his plans to reduce taxes on businesses and wages but not so eager to talk about plans for the city’s parking tax.

The tax already adds 15 percent to the parking tab when folks visit the City Of Brotherly Love, and several councilmen appear ready to add up to 5 percent more. That oughta make people think twice about shopping, dining or touring the city.

Wheelage Taxes? Are You Kidding Me?

February 14, 2008

Editors of the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota are begging not just for the state to tax gasoline but for local officials to embrace their inner tax man. And boy, do they have some “creative” ideas.

They’re talking about wheelage taxes, street improvement districts and transportation access charges — as if those are good ideas. If the bureaucrats are going to go that far, they might as well adopt the European insanity that is the value-added tax. The goal is the same: Tax Americans at every stage of the travel process.

The editors lamented, “Oh for the good old days, when a gas tax hike was considered enough.” I say, “Oh for the good old days, when editors spoke budget-cutting truth to power instead of justifying more taxes on the people.”

The Tax Burden Of New York Travel

February 12, 2008

New York Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt is fighting to lower the tax burden on travelers in the Empire State. Here’s what she had to say in a column for the Hudson Valley Press:

As gas prices rose unexpectedly in years past, several counties throughout the state cut the county share of the gas tax. This did not hurt revenues for the counties because the taxes received were already more than expected, but it was a great help to drivers. I once again will implore county governments and the state to do the same.

To add insult to injury, the governor has proposed a new structure for collecting taxes from the sale of gasoline, which he projects will bring the state an additional $13.2 million at the expense of the taxpayers. I will continue the fight to eliminate this measure from the final budget to be passed by the state Legislature on or before the April 1 deadline.

On top of gas prices and the recent MTA hikes, the Thruway Authority has proposed increasing the tolls on these major roadways. I agree with our state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who said, “The Thruway Authority should take a hard look in the mirror before it pushes another toll hike on New Yorkers.”

The Tax Benefits Of Changing Jobs

February 4, 2008

I finished a seven-year stint at National Journal’s Technology Daily last week due and started a new gig at the Media Research Center today. I’m happy to report some tax benefits from the job change.

The benefits weren’t built into the tax code by friendly bureaucrats, mind you; they’re just the result of me working in Alexandria, Va., instead of Washington, D.C. But hey, a tax break is a tax break. I’ll take it any day.

The first benefit is that I’m driving all the way to work now instead of taking the capital region’s subway system for part of my commute, so the fare hike that took effect just weeks ago no longer will affect me.

I don’t know yet whether I’ll benefit in the long run because I’ll be consuming more gasoline and thus paying more in gas taxes. That said, Metro’s outrageous fee hike irked me so I’m glad that I don’t have to pay it anymore.

The price of eating lunch out also went down because the taxes on restaurant grub in Alexandria are only 8 percent — 62 cents on top of my pricey tab of $7.79 for a Cosi salad today — compared with 10 percent in the District.

At the same time, the tax on my lunch was enlightening. There must be some extra local tax in Alexandria on top of Aunt Virginia’s penalty for eating out because we “rednecks” in Manassas only pay 5 percent. The uppity folk of Alexandria have to pay more for that same luxury.

Yes, you guessed it, I’ll be taking my lunch more often than not.

Taxes And Fees For A Cab Ride?

January 16, 2008

I traveled 10 blocks through the District of Columbia this morning and paid a cab fare of $7.50. I sure wish I knew how much of that goes to the D.C. government in taxes and fees. Anywhere out there know how to get that information?

Metro Officials Beg For More Money

January 16, 2008

Officials just dramatically raised fares for the Metro public transporatation system in the Washington region, and now they’re whining for more money from the federal government.

I’m already paying $1.10 more every day to commute. Somehow I think the woe-is-me chatter by Metro officials will cost taxpayers in the long run.

I’m glad I’ll be changing jobs soon and no longer commuting into D.C. Free parking from my new employer in Alexandria, Va., is sounding mighty fine right about now.

As If Gas Prices Aren’t High Enough

January 15, 2008

This kind of news makes me sick at my stomach:

Federal gasoline taxes should be increased up to 40 cents per gallon over five years, a divided special commission urged Tuesday in calling for drastic changes to fix aging bridges and roads and reduce traffic deaths.

The two-year study by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission is the first to propose broad changes after the devastating bridge collapse in Minneapolis last August shone a spotlight on the deteriorating state of the nation’s infrastructure. Calling for immediate action, the congressionally created panel warned that “applying patches” is no longer acceptable. It said the nation risks tens of thousands of highway casualties each year and millions of dollars lost in economic growth.

“The crisis is now,” the report said.

Is it just me, or is our government’s first answer to every problem to tax, tax, tax?

The Cost Of Commuting Just Went Up

January 7, 2008

I hate that it takes me more than an hour one way to commute to work each day. I hate even more that I have to pay the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority so much of my hard-earned money to make that commute.

Starting this month, that bureaucratic body started taking a much bitter bite out of my wallet by raising the fares on Metro rail.

Last year, I paid $2.85 one way to commute from the Dunn Loring station in Virginia to Foggy Bottom, the first stop in the District of Columbia. The price tag just jumped to $3.40. That’s a fare hike of about 20 percent — and that’s ridiculous!

The Metro portion of my commute alone now will cost $5.50 more a week, or more than $20 a month. Add that to the $3-plus I pay each week in gasoline taxes and the exorbitant sales tax on restaurant meals in the city, and you’ll get a sense of how much money the federal, state and local governments rob from commuters every day.

The Metro rate hike is particularly offensive when Metro’s service is getting worse. I personally haven’t experienced much bad service, but plenty of others obviously have. I don’t like the higher fares, but Metro at least had better use its newfound windfall wisely to address customer complaints and improve the system.