When Republicans Raise Taxes They Don’t Call Them Taxes (They Call Them Tolls, Fees or Tuition)

toll

The Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies, dominated by local Republican politicians such as Jerry Amante (“Toll Road Jerry”) of Tustin and Orange County Supervisors Pat Bates and Chris Norby, has announced that tolls on the 73, 241, 261, and 133 toll roads will go up by 25 cents on July 5, and the monthly account maintenance fee for those with FasTrak will double from $1 to $2 per transponder.

But this post isn’t about Orange County’s transportation problems or the specific problems of the County’s toll road boondoggle.

It’s about taxes.

Local Republicans have made their political living by claiming to oppose tax increases – any tax increase, for any reason, come hell or high water.

But more and more often, these same Republicans are raising the costs of public services.

Toll increases are one example.

Tuition increases for community colleges and state universities are another.

The rule – or rather the ruse – is that Republicans don’t call these increases in the cost of public services taxes.

They call them tolls, or fees, or tuition increases.

But they are taxes by another name.

And they are all regressive taxes – taxes that disproportionately hit working people and the middle class.

So I ask my Republican readers: What happened to your no tax pledge?

Michael D. Fox

Michael received a B.A. degree in philosophy and literature, magna cum laude, from Queens College, and a J.D. with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he was an editor of the Wisconsin Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. He also received an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine. Following law school, Michael served as law clerk to the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, then as an appellate attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., and as a national staff counsel for the United Steelworkers Union. He has successfully briefed and argued numerous cases before the federal and state appellate courts. He has also taught communications, speech, acting, and dramatic literature at the University of California, Irvine, Long Beach City College, and the Laguna College of Art and Design. Among his publications are books and articles on topics ranging from economics, real estate and labor relations to Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, and contemporary drama. As a theatre director, Michael has staged more than 50 plays. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Moving Target Theatre, which produces socially conscious plays in cooperation with activist organizations and presents them directly in the community. He is also a member of the Executive Board of the Democratic Party of California, president of The Duck Club Democrats, and has received an AFL-CIO Award for Meritorious Service for Commitment to Human Rights. Michael is married and has one son, one dog, two cats and five guitars. 

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  4 comments for “When Republicans Raise Taxes They Don’t Call Them Taxes (They Call Them Tolls, Fees or Tuition)

  1. June 8, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Come on, Republicans, I know you’re out there.

    I have also been hearing a Republican radio ad opposing a tax on plastic bags in grocery stores.

    How are increased fees on road usage or increased fees and tuition for college different from a tax on plastic bags?

    (Not that I’m in favor of any increases in regressive taxes — whether on plastic bags, roads, or college tuition — that disproportionately hit working family and the middle class).

  2. A Republican
    June 9, 2009 at 6:59 am

    As a Republican, I’m opposed to to fees masquerading as taxes. But fees for direct services are necessary.

    College tuition: Don’t get me started with this one. I don’t think community college tuition is high enough. It’s so cheap that there are so many people who can’t decide what they are going to do with their lives hanging out just so they don’t get kicked out of their parents’ house. In general, students need to have some skin in the game to truly benefit. I understand that there is the occasional single mom trying to make things better, but there are better ways to deal with this (and if I start to describe them, I’ll go down a tangent and get way off track for the topic of this post).

    2. Toll Roads: I’d prefer a better way of financing our roads. But we need more highways and this seems to work well on the east coast. The people who directly use the service benefit.

    3. Plastic Bags. This is completely different. To justify this based on my views regarding tuition and toll roads, the government would need to be making the bags and the issue would be whether the government should raise the price on the bags. Since the government is not making the bag, this is a tax not a fee.

    4. I’m going to add the vehicle license “fee” which is not a fee at all. Since the government is not selling the car (ignore Goverment Motors since that does make things interesting here), this is a tax.

  3. lefty
    June 9, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Michael,

    The problem with the “Toll Roads” is just that – the tolls themselves.

    The “Toll Roads” should have been built as “freeways” – by benefiting development fees & gasoline taxes. Pre-toll road developers in OC, RC & SBdoC did not paid their fair share. State & Federal “gasoline taxes” were intended as “user fees” for new roads & road maintenance & have been diverted, or not returned to the County.

    Too many legislators & their well to do “supporters” don’t mind exclusive Toll Roads & their relatively “minor” fees.

    Toll Roads are another “Country Club” for the affluent … & a way to further pick the pockets of the middle-class & the poor.

  4. June 9, 2009 at 11:53 am

    My thanks to “A Republican” for entering the discussion – and for conceding that tolls and fees = taxes.

    I assume then that you also concede that Republicans (like Amante, Bates, and Norby, and the other Republicans who control the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies) are hypocrites when they bray about their opposition to any and all taxes and then continue to vote to raise tolls and fees.

    You say “fees for direct services are necessary.” This sounds like taxes to me – in particular the vehicle tax that Republicans used to recall Governor Davis.

    You also argue that community college tuition should be increased so that students take their education more seriously. This sounds to me like using tax policy to encourage or discourage certain behavior or social ends – not a very Republican idea (when applied to polluters, for example).

    Let’s get real. The issue isn’t as simplistic as tax or no tax. The real issue is always what is taxed, how much, and who pays.

    Across the board, I favor progressive taxes over regressive taxes – where those who can afford more, pay more.

    That’s the real difference on taxes between Democrats and Republicans.

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