Yet again the “do the math” crowd is using biased math to justify surcharging owners of hybrid and electric vehicles to subsidize the road-use gas tax paid by overweight, gas-guzzling vehicles many people “choose” to drive (Readers Write, March 27). Some would have you believe surcharging electric cars is not “reverse socialism.” Unfortunately, this redistribution negatively affects people, many of them senior citizens, who cannot afford the gas-guzzler.
Those who own hybrids are already helping keep gas prices down, saving money and minimizing the carbon footprint of their car. Also, many subcompact vehicles today achieve mileage comparable to hybrids. Why aren’t they part of the conversation?
Being a hybrid owner for 12 years has saved me a lot of money that was redirected to the economy in more useful ways, such as better health insurance. Next to my hybrid sits a 2004 pickup with a large engine to pull stuff. On a good day it gets 15 miles per gallon. Newer trucks get better mileage, and no one seems to fault that for reducing tax revenue. I would get a double-whammy with proposals at the State Capitol for an increased gas tax for the pickup and a new surcharge for the hybrid. The Minnesota Department of Transportation continually says heavier vehicles do more road damage per mile. Perhaps the right thing is a surcharge based on vehicle weight. And wouldn’t it be fun to tax veggies, so vegetarians could help keep the price of porterhouse down?
Chuck French, Andover
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One of the March 27 letters makes an assumption that the average vehicle gets 25 miles per gallon and is driven 15,000 miles per year, and the owner would pay a gas tax of $300 per year. The letter therefore concludes that the owner of an electric vehicle should be taxed at a flat rate of $300 per year. Nothing wrong with the math; it’s the assumption and conclusion that I have to object to. Electric vehicles are often used as second vehicles to make short trips around town and might be driven significantly less than 15,000 miles per year. At 6,000 miles per year, the “average” vehicle described in the letter would pay a gas tax of $67.20 at the current rate, or $115.20 if the governor’s 20-cent increase is approved. Meanwhile, the EV owner would pay $300 for the same 6,000 miles. Contrary to the letter’s conclusion, all users would not be paying the same amount to support the maintenance of our roads.
It’s also interesting to note that the legislative proposals SF 1409 / HF 2026, which would raise the annual EV surcharge from $75 to $250 and introduce a $125 surcharge for hybrids, are coming from the party that refuses to consider a gas tax increase.
Robert Mickelson, Coon Rapids
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Everyone, especially the heavy users, should pay, and pay more, for use of public services. However, to get past the typical opposition toward any user tax increase (from the big users using the rhetoric of the little users — “oh my God it will kill small business!”) exempt the working poor under a certain income level and very small businesses and contractors. Give them a card for the pump or inside the station or a tax credit. I’m sure the higher revenue can pay for the process to make the exemption work. More important, let’s start getting commodity transports and commuters off the roads by faster development of the existing technology of electric transport systems.
Thomas Harens, Chaska
The writer is a former member of the Minnesota House.
Be careful what you wish for
Nick Hart’s March 27 commentary (“Trump’s budget promotes evidence-based policies. Believe it”) calls for at least one cautionary response. His third point is innocuously titled: plans to improve economic statistics.
Sounds bland and unobjectionable, but to consolidate the Bureau of Labor Statistics with other offices producing economic data would shatter the BLS’s independence and history of integrity, so valued by social and labor analysts, stock and bond advisers and political commentators alike. Economists (like me) have fought in the past to protect the BLS and need to speak up now.
I know how data can be fudged. In the summer of 1960, I was an intern in one of the other data-generating bureaus, in the Commerce Department. Vice President (and presidential candidate) Richard Nixon had said there would be no recession that year. The order came down from Commerce Secretary Lewis Strauss to jigger the national accounts statistics to hide the slowdown. Though but a lowly intern, I was told to participate in this. I refused (already defending clean data) but told my boss she could fire me if she wanted, as I would be back to college in a couple weeks. (Sometimes good ethics are available on the cheap.)
Several months into the Kennedy administration, the various data series were revised to show the economic dip. We know that good data require integrity in their creation and interpretation.
James G. Scoville, Minneapolis
The writer is an emeritus faculty member of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
Remember your physics
It is disturbing to hear about the number of pedestrians who have been struck and injured or killed by cars while trying to cross the street in marked or unmarked crosswalks and intersections. I cannot judge the circumstances of these accidents, since I was not there, but I have noticed that more pedestrians are walking out in front of cars at intersections with very little hesitation. Of course, the law is on their side, but unfortunately the laws of physics are not. If a car is traveling at the posted speed limit of 30 mph, it would take 4½ seconds to stop, or 144 feet to stop on dry pavement. One of the first safety lessons I remember as a child was that when attempting to cross a street, stop, look both ways, look both ways again and cross only after you see that no cars are coming. I think I will stick with that safety plan.
Mary Diercks, Minneapolis
GOVERNMENT DOING GOOD
Another example of top service
A March 25 letter writer wished to “sing the praises” of the service provided by the Bloomington office of the Social Security Administration. This letter is to likewise praise efficient, professional, patient and courteous service — that of the staff of the Southdale Hennepin County Service Center and the Minneapolis Social Security office.
As a young girl many decades ago I used a nickname when I got my Social Security card. With the implementation of enhanced driver’s licenses coming up in 2020, I learned that I couldn’t renew my license without first going to the Social Security office and changing to my legal name. I rushed over to apply, but the line outside the building seemed too long. I decided to return early before it opened the next morning, only to find even a longer line that stretched into the parking lot. Through the whole three-hour process (I had to deal with the SS benefit issue, too), the staff was incredible. Both offices were packed with patient, calm citizens (impressive) who were being helped by these even more impressive workers.
It was a reassuring experience to see civility and caring in action. This is a public thank you to both offices.
Elizabeth (Bette) Stacy, Minneapolis
PICKLEBALL NOISE DISPUTE
‘Pop!’ goes the paddle
The sport of pickle ball is controversial? (“Pickleball’s foes get noisy,” March 28.) Who’d have thought that an activity enjoyed by a majority of retired seniors could create dissension in a community? That the sound level this sport generates would be controversial? (Jets, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, motorcycles — these are noises.)
Our beautiful outdoor days in Minnesota are limited. Once spring comes, we all clamor to enjoy our favorite outdoor activities, including gardening, reading, barbecuing on the desk and, yes, playing pickleball. When does one’s right of activity infringe on another’s right of serenity? Apparently, there is no easy answer for factions in Apple Valley to coexist in proximity. Both sides have valid arguments. Now the matter is in the hands of the City Council. To the players, they just relish playing outdoors. To the nearby residences, the noise factor is really a big dill!
Ty Yasukawa, Burnsville