Placing more tolls on fewer drivers is not the solution

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When you’re in over your head, stop digging. That old saw same to mind as I read this article that says fewer people are using the Massachusetts Turnpike because of rising gas prices so they’re thinking of raising tolls to compensate. Huh?

Drivers, struggling with high gas prices, avoided the debt-plagued Pike this summer as the department’s finances inched closer to junk-bond status yesterday.“This is yet another wake-up call,” said Pike board member Mary Connaughton. “Barring some type of state aid, the only solution is a toll increase.”

Typical liberal thinking. It ignores actual economic behavior or that people will act in their own self-interest. What we see is that commuters who are cost-conscious are finding alternate means of getting to work because of a rise in the cost of commuting. So is the solution really to increase the cost even further? That will only drive even more tollpayers away from the Pike and exacerbate the problem.

I’ve told the story before of the Democrat Senator in the early 90s who asked the Congressional Budget Office to conduct a study of the potential revenue from a 100% tax on income over $1 million. That is, you pay normal rates on all the money you earn up to $1 million, but every dollar you earn above that you turn over to the government. He was actually surprised to learn the CBO’s answer: The potential revenue would be ZERO. If the state confiscated all income over $1 million why would anyone bother earning that much? Better to let the company keep the money to invest in itself, in new employees, pay raises, capital improvements, than to simply give it away.

What the liberal Senator—and the liberals running the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority—don’t seem to get is that taxpayers and commuters act in their self-interest and aren’t just waiting for some out-of-touch bureaucrat or politician to tell them what to do.

I have a suggestion to the Turnpike Authority: How about cutting tolls and then cutting costs and seeing how many more people, not fewer, start using the Pike.

 

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