California's new gas tax poses the same dilemma Connecticut voters face

no (real) relief in sight

no (real) relief in sight

A hike of 12 cents a gallon, effective as of January 1st, is seeing a flurry of highly visible road repairs on California highways, spurred by fear that it will be repealed this November. No one, I assume, denies that California's roads are a mess, but people hate paying for such things. 

And, as the chairman of the group sponsoring the repeal bill says, 

“Voters are smarter than the politicians think — they know that any projects being done today are just window dressing as part of the campaign to keep this tax in place,” DeMaio said. “Once the campaign is over, the projects will disappear and the money will be stolen again.”

That's exactly my fear about our own state's plan to impose tolls. Tax revenue is fungible, and if new revenue comes in, even if earmarked for transportation, the legislature is almost certain to just shift the meagre money currently spent on highways to other purposes, leaving us no better than before. Witness Connecticut's (and most other states's) use of lottery proceeds supposedly directed to education. Lottery money (may, depending) be spent on schools, but existing funds are withdrawn, and dumped into the general fund. And the billions received from the cigarette settlement, intended for smoking-cessation programs and reimbursement to hospitals for treatment costs for uninsured smokers? Hahahahaha.

(There will be an almost-certainly-fruitless demonstration in Stamford this weekend by small business owners protesting the legislature's proposed gasoline tax hike, a tire fee, and tolls. i'm confident that these people would be better off staying home and saving their gas, and time, and breath.)

Legislation imposing a higher gasoline taxes and/or tolls could be written to ensure that the new revenue would be added to existing spending, and that might reassure voters, at least a little, that they're being hosed a bit less than usual, but I don't see that happening: what's the point of raising taxes if you can't spend it on your friends?