Cut taxes for “green” cars?

What does everyone think of the idea of dropping car taxes for all vehicles in town that get more than 40 miles to the gallon? It’s at least an interesting idea, right?

Advertisements

121 Comments

Filed under Environment, global warming, Property taxes

121 responses to “Cut taxes for “green” cars?

  1. David Jones

    Clearly an interesting idea, but is it a good idea? I have insufficient information to reach a conclusion.

    If people who drive these cars pay no taxes who makes up the difference? The tax dollars must be replaced.

    If drivers of cars with less favorable gas mileage are paying the difference, is it appropriate for the local government to dictate that those people subsidize the green drivers? Will our poorer citizens, unlikely to have the ability to buy one of these cars, now be subsidizing their wealthier neighbors.? Are there other “socially conscious behaviors” that should be rewarded with lower property taxes? Don’t know the answers just asking some questions.

    I’m anxious to learn the details.

    Republican candidate for town council, Leon Davidoff, asked some of those questions tonight on our local cable access station.

    Speaking of the Republicans, four of their town council candidates appeared on a live call in show tonight. I felt two of them showed great promise. While I have never met Leon Davidoff or Steven Adler, based on my initial impression I could see them being legitimate contribitors to our town government. Both seemed to be intelligent, rational thinking gentlemen. My take is that they would bring their own ideas to the council without undue partisan bickering. In other words they wouldn’t “go along to get along”, but they wouldn’t be looking for ways to “one up” the D’s either.

    I’m a Republican who will be supporting several Democrats, but I am interested in learning more about Mr. Adler and Mr. Davidoff.

  2. Joe Visconti

    David
    On the Green car issue, why don’t you ask for more info about them from your favorite Democratic Candidates?

  3. Elliot Check

    There would seem to be some debate on the long term effect of the “green cars”. Battery disposal may be a bigger problem than the one solved by fuel economy.

    The point on the tax break being offset by a higher tax on the poor, as mentioned above, should also be considered.

    Look at the fiasco Ethanol is turning into since its’ use in fuel was mandated.

    Before tax credits are considered the Council should look at the whole picture.

  4. It is a nice idea for the environment but, and this is a HUGE BUT, it would be just another tax cut for the more affluent people that can actually afford the big buck$ of a hybrid car. As pointed out above, that leaves everyone else carrying their burden. Isn’t the middle class already carrying enough of the elite’s tax burden with the way the GOP has already skewered the system?

    You want to really make a difference? Offer a tax cut to the people that don’t buy cars.

  5. EJ

    CtMan1 – if they don’t buy cars, they don’t pay taxes on them. Therefore nothing to cut.

  6. Elmwoodian

    Of course, another way to look at it is that it could lesson the burden of buying a hybrid (or more gas-efficient vehicle; it doesn’t necessarily need to be a hybrid) and make it more affordable to someone who might not necessarily not have been able to even consider one in the past.

    Just a thought for discussion. Like the above posters, I’m not exactly set where I stand on the issue. It has arguments that weigh favorably on both sides.

  7. John Hardy

    I understand and agree with the goals behind the concept, but the other comments are correct. Given the continuing fiscal debates in Town, we don’t need to exacerbate the financial disparities (the real ones as well as the perceived ones) by “favoring” one local class of citizens over another.

    Actually, the state very generously passed the enabling legislation but essentially created another “unfunded option.” If the legislature and governor were serious about endorsing this sort of social policy, they ought to have put up some dollars in the form of a sort of “PILOT” grant to replace the municipal taxes offset by the option.

    What they really ought to work on is true, effective statewide property tax reform and not minimal tinkering. But of course, that requires a fair, progressive tax structure, and we all know the direction that conversation would take….

  8. Bob Holland

    Let’s think of it as a city subsidizing the car manufacturer and, in turn, subsidizing the car manufacturers’ suppliers. Zinc, for example, is mostly mined in China. Now, what do we think a Zinc mine and the air around it in some godforsaken place in rural China looks like? So, some politician thinks it’s socially acceptable to give a tax subsidy to a favored citizen who buys these cars because they use less gas?

    Sure makes sense to me.

  9. Joe Visconti

    Scott & Chuck

    Can either of you give the public some data on the ordinance you all wrote on this, or is it subject to a public hearing where you cannot speak to the public at this time?
    Are there State or Federal grants connected to the tax break? Is there a cap on how much subsidy the Town will absorb? Has the Town of West Hartford spoken to car manufacturers on a potential rebate program? What’s the price tag on this for the next 10 years?

    For the record I believe we all need to start at the local level to get greener on all fronts.

    If there is a public hearing on this ordinance which I believe may be the case, I urge all residents to get down to Town Hall and bring your ideas with you. Don’t forget this ordiance can be amended, limited or expanded.

  10. eafinct

    Is the fact that the cleaner cars save their owners money in the long run with better fuel efficiency enough of a motivator? The goal should be to influence the purchase of new cars to be the cleanest, most fuel-efficient, least-polluting possible among the options available. That benefits all of us, even those who are not buying new cars, because we get a better environment, less asthma, less balance of trade inequities due to less imported oil, etc. Is there a way that we could also influence the purchase of used cars — i.e. if you have a choice between two used cars, how can we help influence that purchase to the more fuel-efficient green side? Maybe the money you save on gasoline is enough of an incentive. Maybe the tax credit idea is only valid when the price of gasoline is low and therefore negligible in people’s calculations of what car to drive. I mean, I was driving a Honda Civic on principle when gas cost $1.50 a gallon, but now I would buy the same car for fuel efficiency reasons alone, even if it didn’t help the environment.

    And an even better way would be to reinstate the trolleys and streetcars on our streets. Wouldn’t it be nice if all those single-occupancy cars came off Avon Mountain because a clean efficient light-rail service took people into Hartford, and dropped them off at convenient locations? Safer too.

  11. turtle

    And an even better way would be to reinstate the trolleys and streetcars on our streets.

    The way to go!

  12. Bob Holland

    Why don’t we give a tax break to those who buy a car built in the United States? Indeed, the car must contain 100% US manufactured parts. Buy a big car – pay lots in sales and fuel taxes, a smaller one not so much. Buy one imported or all but imported, tax em.

    I simply do not get what motivates people to spend thousands extra to buy a car made overseas that will be obsolete within 12 months.

  13. CtMan1 – if they don’t buy cars, they don’t pay taxes on them. Therefore nothing to cut.

    Income tax cut. Call it an environment incentive to entice people to use mass transit. Nutmeggers are always so focused on that car tax… Our car tax is next to nothing because we buy used and they aren’t luxury vehicles. If we could afford a hybrid we would gladly buy one.

  14. EJ

    That would be up to the State and not the Town.
    The town council would have no say in the matter

  15. Sean McCann

    I think there’s been a little rush to judgment on Whdad’s proposal–which doesn’t specify hybrids, only 40 mpg + cars. You can get a Toyota Yaris for $12,500. Hard to find a new car for much less than that.

    Though it doesn’t have much to do with town policy, of course, it’s worth mentioning, too, that for years now we’ve all been subsidizing massively destructive gas guzzlers. And more externalities could be added to eafinct’s list of their hidden costs–traffic deaths and injuries, insurance rates, road and bridge repair, quality of life. Anything that would contribute to the de-SUVification of our community would be a good thing.

  16. eafinct

    Bob Holland — You would be hard pressed to find a car which is built in the US of 100% US parts. Most of GM and Ford and Chrysler cars are either assembled in Mexico or Canada, or have large percentages of foreign parts in them. I work in import and export, and I know. There are entire sections of the homeland security regulations which are set up expressly to ensure that cargo movement into the US for large auto corporations (and other corporations) moves smoothly. ( This is entirely apart from NAFTA — it is a set of regulations call CT-PAT.)

    In addition, what cars are you talking about when you mention foreign cars that lose their values after a year? US cars are still way less reliable than Toyotas, Hondas, Volkswagens, Hyundais (I could go on) — although a lot of these makers do have US assembly plants — which certainly hold their value better than US cars. Foreign auto corporations tend to emphasize quality and the cars hold their resale value, while US manufacturers tend to go for the flash and the testosterone factor every time. That’s why they are going broke. The biggest gas-guzzling polluters are all US vehicles.

  17. Marty Kane

    There are so many things wrong with this legislation I don’t know where to begin or end.

    The most important flaw is that we may actually be encouraging bad behavior (I call this the unintended consequence). We give a tax break to someone who commutes 100 miles each day in a Prius (50 mpg) and who consumes 2 gallons of gas. While someone who pays their taxes on a Chevy Yukon (20 mpg) gets no break. However, this evil driver commutes 2 miles each day to work in West Hartord and consumes 1/10th of a gallon of gas daily. Hmmm, so what benefit has the town enjoyed that we feel it is a necessity to subsidize the gas guzzling Prius commuter?

    My second point is simply the unfairness of the tax. Some people may not be able to afford a new Prius as much as they would like to own one. Maybe that person earns $25,000 annually. That person must subsidize the executive who makes $250,000 annually who purchases the Prius so they can commute 100 miles each day(I couldn’t resist repeating my first point here).

    Let’s stick to local politics, kill some rats in town, pick up the garbage, educate our students, keep our residents safe and get out of the social engineering game.

  18. Elliot Check

    Marty – all good points and I have to agree with your take on the subject

    The Town Council can’t know the driving habits of the citizens, and giving a tax break just bacause of the style of car is not necessarily valid. Why not extend the break to the Dodge Viper owner who owns the car as a collectable and does minimum miles/yr. Why not give the break to anyone who gets rid of car getting under 15mpg and replaces it with one getting over 25mpg.

    They’re also finding that many of these 40mpg cars get nowhere near the listed mpg because of driving style. What does the town council do if the driver of that 40mpg car is actually getting 29mpg (still not shabby). Do they take the tax break back? How would they know?

    What if Prius owner uses the car only occassionally, but prefers the bigger SUV to get the kids to soccer games but registers the bigger car in FL or VT (illegal but we all know it is done)? Net effect 0 tax $$$$.

  19. Joe Visconti

    The below councilors have written the new ordinance on this matter and will meet this Tuesday Septmeber 11th at 7:30 pm.

    It appears the Democrats have listened to Simon Says (Kevin Sullivan) and will not post here until after the election to answer the public.
    There does not appear to be a hearing on this ordinance but I bet $100 that Scott will announce there will be one when he opens the Meeting. Why would the Democrats hold a hearing and not plan for it in advance as they normally do? Because the Public right here on this blog doesn’t like what it is hearing regarding fairness in the idea for local public subsidy. Time to get ready for knee Jerk reactions from the Democratic Machine on Tuesday night.
    If Scott for $100 does announce a hearing it will mean that the public cannot speak on the matter on Tuesday September 11th. So do we prepare our comments for the Council or do we get dressed, drive to Town Hall only to find out we cannot speak? The Hartford Fishwrap (Courant for newcommers) announced the ordinace last week. Also notice that this ordinace was written by six Democrats and Joe Verrengia (a Democrat raising funds to become a Democrat while he is a Republican). So we now have an illegal gathering of 7 councilors of the same party writing law (A limit of 6 of the same Party by charter can be on council), how special.

    Oh and the asterik next to the Ordiance may mean something, except most items on the calender have an asterik next to them, go figure the system out for yourselves!

    NEW BUSINESS:

    *Ordinance (Slifka, Spada, Coursey, Thornberry, McClay, Cantor, Verrengia) promoting energy efficiency and independence through tax and parking exemptions for certain fuel-efficient vehicles.

  20. Sean McCann

    Marty and Eliot,

    I don’t know much about tax policy, so have to say that you and others might well be right. But still, I’m not quite seeing the force of your objections. How exactly would this legislation encourage bad behavior? Is the thought that it will lead people to buy hybrids and that they will then drive more than they otherwise would?

    I’ll admit that’s a slight possibility, but, I think, a very slight one. First of all, to take your example, Marty, if the largest chunk of the average taxpayer’s driving is a commute to work, that chunk is inflexible. Few people are going to get jobs further away because they have a Prius.

    Second, at least up to this point there are apparently some qualities that hybrid drivers tend to share apart from being relatively wealthy. (I’m not one of them, btw.) They’re green. That’s going to have some effect.

    Then, too, there’s the point I made above. There are a number of cars that get above 40 mpg that are not expensive. It’s misleading to suggest the legislation would only apply to hybrids. (And, of course, Detroit can improve gas mileage anytime it wants, but has fought tooth and nail to do otherwise for decades. If there were a lot more local legislation like this, you can bet Detroit would start producing some more low gas-mileage cars.)

    I don’t know whether lowering taxes on high mileage cars would eventually lead more people to cheat on their taxes. It would only happen, of course, if car taxes went up over all. I’m guessing the proportion of cheaters is pretty low and not highly affected a lot by marginal increases. There’s probably data available. In any case, I think it would probably be a mistake to let a small number of cheaters effectively determine tax policy for the entire community.

    I don’t think the point about driving style makes sense, Eliot. It’s possible that someone might treat a Yaris like a stock car, but tax policy is aimed at average performance. The simple point is that, if more people drive high mpg cars, it won’t matter that some of them–who would probably drive badly anway–would continue to drive badly. Overall, less gas will be burnt.

    A final point. So long as we’re talking about possible unfairness, let’s talk about the whole picture and acknowledge the current actual unfairness. At the moment, those of us who don’t drive big gas guzzlers are–in lots of ways–subsidizing those who do. Apart from pollution and oil dependency, there’s quality of life and safety, for example. (Would you rather be hit by a Navigator or a Prius? If you’re driving a big SUV around town–even if it’s to the soccer games–you’re effectively holding the safety of our kids hostage. Plus, to make matters worse, you’re encouraging other people to buy giant gas guzzlers just so they can feel safe from your dangerous vehicle.)

    But, to repeat myself, there’s also a directly relevant example. We’d be paying less to maintain our roads if there were fewer enormous vehicles travelling them. In effect, the SUV epidemic is a tax on non-SUV drivers. That’s unfair. A very small step to balance things the other way does not seem greatly unfair in that context.

  21. Elliot Check

    Sean,

    1- I was trying to show the law of unintended consequences. People may or may not register cars out of state as a result of this, but we do know that many Florida & Vermont plates in town are not tourits. The reason is to avoid property taxes.

    2- The incentive to purchase a high mpg vehicle is the gas savings to the individual. Gas prices go up, people buy more efficient cars. You’ll also find with higher gas prices alternative energy source will develop at a faster rate as they become more cost effective to develop

    3- What does the Town do should these vehicles increase significantly? What will be the effect on the town budget should 1000 people switch, 2000, 3000. The numbers will start turning against the town very quickly. Can the other town residents afford to carry the subsidy for the others as that subsidy increases?

  22. John Hardy

    Mr. Visconti:

    Before we all get too far down the road with the conspiracy-theory stuff, it is my understanding that ALL proposed ordinances require a public hearing.

    Basically, as I understand it from following the Town Council fairly closely, the process is:

    1. Proposed ordinance introduced as “New Business” at which point a public hearing date is set for a future date.

    2. Public hearing is heard.

    3. Proposal returns to the Council for action. This frequently, but not always, happens on the same date as the hearing.

    Caveat: I’m neither a Town Charter expert nor an attorney. Further, as I stated yesterday in this string, I am not in favor of this particular proposal.

  23. Joe Visconti

    Wouldn’t that be nice to hear from our Town Councilors, or the Courant? Then I win $100?, hey, who took my bet?????

  24. John Hardy

    I would not suggest relying on The Courant for anything, except maybe as an effective birdcage liner.

    It’s really not a conspiracy – The Town has a pretty good website with all this information, free for the taking. Here’s what I relied on:

    http://www.west-hartford.com/government/VoicingOpinion/VoicingOpinion1.htm

  25. David Jones

    Joe Visconti,

    You have accused Joe Verrengia of an illegal act based on the fact that he signed on to this proposal. It’s not uncommon for all 9 to sign on to a proposal, but this doesn’t suggest an illegal caucus.

    If you indeed have evidence that such an illegal caucus took place then please present it. If not, then you owe Joe Verrengia an apology for smearing him. And your history of these kinds of smears is one of the reasons you’d be a poor choice for town council.

  26. How about owners of vehicles that get under 25mpg should have to pay fines instead?

  27. Joe Visconti

    Smear? Hmn, Illegal Caucus? Just when does Joe Caucus with the Dems? How is he planning on issues as he nears the end of his term as a “Republican” . Whom is he asking for denaro’s for his campaign? Please spare me the drama, Joe is voting with the dems, raising funds with the dems and working with the dems. If Joe wanted to run as a dem he should have resigned his seat and then switched Parties, he has made a mockery of the position. How is the public to know which side he is on until November?
    Fact: There are seven registered democrats sitting on the Town Council right now.

  28. Elliot Check

    Joe, isn’t it amazing how unconcerned they are when it is a Dem doing this to their benefit. If it were the other way around can you imagine the uproar.

  29. David Jones

    Joe Visconti

    Fact: You accused someone of an illegal act without any evidence.

    Go ahead, present your evidence. You just asked a bunch of questions but presented no evidence. When and where did this illegal caucus take place? Who witnessed it? You didn’t present it as speculation, you presented it as fact, so go ahead, let’s have the evidence.

    Yeah, that’s what I thought!!!

  30. Joe Visconti

    Hey David
    Fact: Joe Verrengia is a registered dem and works with the dem leadership period.
    It is illegal for more than 6 of a Political Party to be on the Council at once and so Joe Verrengia being a Registered Democrat and Democratic Candidate while sitting on the Council makes it 7 Democrats on the Town Council, clearly an illegality.
    Oh wait is Joe Verrengia a Republican???, is this the Al Gore Lincoln bedroom rental excuse of “No Governing Authority” to stop Joe Verrengia from pretending to still be a Republican?
    Joe Verrengia owes the Public an apology and should resign immediatley!

  31. Gary Reger

    A couple of comments on the idea of tax relief for owners of 40+ mpg cars —

    The reason we have catalytic converters and other pollution control devices on our cars is because California mandated reduced pollution, and if Detroit wanted to sell in that market it had to comply. So Sean’s point that local regulations help push manufacturers is exactly right.

    On this matter, there is a certain irony. The national Republican administration chants a litany of local control, of letting local jurisdictions experiment (rather than having the federal government intervene). Then when such an experiment is proposed, we hear that it’s not up to us to make such policy, it’ll go wrong, etc. etc.

    Eafinct is exactly right about the actual “foreign” make-up of “US” autos. The real issue is that, 20 years ago, US automakers made a big strategic decision: to concentrate on building and marketing big vehicles, essentially trucks, as family cars, because the profit margin was high. Japanese and other foreign auto makers focused instead on fuel efficiency. In so doing, US automakers abandoned any hope of competing in a global market — nobody in Europe wants a Ford Explorer when gas costs $10/gallon.

    We here need to catch up. We need to encourage conservation. The tax relief is a really interesting idea.

    Here are what seem to me the central questions:

    1. Approximately how much of total Town tax revenue comes from the tax on autos?

    2. What level of relief are we talking about? A percentage, a flat figure?

    3. What would the estimated impact be on Town income?

    4. If there is a serious impact, how could it be made up? Why would the impact necessarily fall on poorer residents? (Remember: no one is talking about a punitive tax for gas guzzlers, rather relief for gas sippers. As for making it up: how about a higher mill rate for houses larger than 100% bigger than the median house size in Town? Or a fee and permit, like paying for a building permit, for anyone taking down a tree in Town?)

    5. Are there other towns in the US that have done the same? If so, what was their experience? What can we learn from them?

    6. What is the real rate of “cheating” on registration? Why should we believe that a tax decrease would lead to increased cheating?

    To Joe and anyone else running for public office:

    I expect candidates not to bloviate but to have real answers. These questions seem to me to be at the heart of how you make a decision about whether to support or oppose a proposal like this one. So please, show us that you are worthy of being considered for a public trust. Give us facts and figures and explain your thought process. If you don’t know the numbers, take the time to find them out, and reply when you know. I’d rather wait for a well thought-through answer than read an immediate rant.

  32. Sean McCann

    Eliot,

    I’m familiar with the problem of unintended consequences. But it’s not enough merely to invoke a law in order to resolve a question. To make your case, you need to show two things. One, that the policy in question is likely to lead to lead to negative consequences. Two, that those negative consequences are likely to outweigh the good aimed at by the policy. I think on both, your case is quite weak.

    First of all, let’s acknowledge that this proposal is aimed, as most good public policy is, at influencing behavior at the margins. (Which is why, apart from the problems of enforcement and genuine unfairness, that it’s better than a mass program for punishing drivers of low mpg vehicles.) Will it lead to a flood of people buying very high mpg vehicles? Doubtful. People take many things into account when they buy cars. Taxes are one small factor. (If they weren’t, you wouldn’t see so many luxury cars around town.)

    Second, you have to presume several things to predict a significant migration to out of state registrations. One, that taxes on other drivers will rise more than a trivial amount. Unlikely. Two, that a non-trivial number of drivers have the wherewhithal to register cars out of state. Again, I’m guessing, unlikely.

    But, let’s assume for the sake of argument that all of a sudden a lot of people started getting 40 mpg + cars. Would that have so much of an effect on the tax base that it would outweight the many good consequences (less air pollution, more safety, higher quality of life, lower maintenance costs, and less contribution to warming and oil dependency)? I’m doubtful.

    Finally, I don’t understand what you mean by “the incentive.” “An incentive” would be more accurate. People’s choice of cars, like their choices of where to live, are influenced by lots of incentives. There’s no reason that tax policy can’t be one, minor incentive–in much the same way that CT now gives us incentives to make our houses more energy efficient or that the Fed gives us an incentive to own our own homes.

    Instead of raising unlikely boogeymen, it would be helpful if those opposed to this policy would explain why they’re opposed to a small measure to make our streets safer and our town cleaner that will likely have minor costs and small effects.

  33. Sean McCann

    Apologies. I posted before realizing that Gary, more usefully, had already address my points.

  34. Kerri:

    25 mpg? Hmmm. I don’t even own a guzzler, but I might be found guilty if I continue to drive in West Hartford where you hit many sets of lights between the Center and the Highway, more if you travel across town.

    Obviously, we need the lights at intersections, but no one is willing to talk light sycronization. For those who don’t know, modern European cities (like Berlin and Munchen) have managed to cut down emissions and reduce fuel waste by time syncronizing lights on heavily traveled streets. A driver playing by the rules is rewarded by less stops, steady travel, and reduction in traffic jams (except during rush hours – pretty much unavoidable).

    These cities also monitor traffic flow to ensure lanes going in and out of the city match the majority flow of traffic.

    I’m sure there is a cost to this, but perhaps it could be done on a moderate scale between Hartford and West Hartford. Has anyone looked into this?

    It’s a win-win. The conservationists (which we should all be to some extent) and enviromentalists win, and the ordinary Joe Driver (not Visconti) wins by avoiding 10-12 mins in lights getting across town, and improving mileage by perhaps 5 or more miles per gallon.

  35. Elliot Check

    Sean, the sole source of income for the town is the property tax.

    Every time the Council wants to give a break to one group it means everyone else has to pick up the slack.

    When the Council wants to give a break to the elderly, which may be a noble idea, everybody else makes up the difference.

    If the Council wants to give a break to high mileage cars the rest of the townhasto pick up the slack. Perhaps the # is not great at this time, what happens if 1000 Prius’ suddenly show up in town. $20,000 * 70%*.0395*1000=$553K that has to be made up.

    In the last year I picked up 2 cars in this price range. I had no desire for a Prius. But what if I changed my mind to save the taxes, and others did the same.

    Doesn’t the State give a break to the buyers of these cars?

    And of course there is the substantial savings in gas $. I would think this in itself should be enough of an incentive.

    After the budget battles of last spring and the problems we face in the next 4 years, this town has enough problems financially without without giving favored tax breaks that don’t bring devlopment to the town and lead to growth.

  36. Sean McCann

    Eliot, if I understand correctly, 85% of the town budget comes from property taxes. Car taxes make up a relatively small portion of this revenue. Well under 10% of the grand list, I believe. The chances of 1,000 40 mpg vehicles “suddenly” turning up is, I think, extremely low. Even your doomsday scenario, though, would amount to something like .5% of the current budget. Frankly, I’m having a hard time seeing these as serious objections, and they only bring to mind my earlier question. What objection do you have to making our streets safer, our quality of life better, our air cleaner, and our maintenance costs lower?

    You’re own experience, btw, suggests how little reason there is to generate doomsday scenarios. Buyers are going to continue to keep in mind all the things they consider when they shop for a new car. Tax savings will contribute only one small incentive to balance others.

  37. Gary Reger

    If I may say so, this discussion about whether WH should institute a tax break for 40+ mpg cars proves my point about the relationship between national and local issues. If you are convinced, as I am, that global warming constitutes a serious — perhaps the most serious — threat we face, you will want local authorities to do what they can to help. In this case that may mean asking whether the current tax structure is right. Perhaps we should more heavily tax big houses, more lightly tax high-mileage cars. I do not want to impute views on this issue to Elliot, but his premiss — that we should give no tax breaks that do not produce development — represents a different view. These should be debated, and that’s one reason why it matters what a candidate for local office thinks about his/her national party’s stand.

    Elliot: were the figures you gave notional or do they represent actual proposed tax impact? I.e., does the law as proposed imply a revenue loss of $553/year/Prius?

  38. Elliot Check

    Gary,
    The numbers I used were:

    Kelly Blue Book Toyota Prius MSRP $21,610, invoice $20,352.

    I rounded down to $20,000
    70% * assessed value
    assessed value * mil rate. = tax/vehicle

    est # vehicles * tax = final number

    Sean seems to think I’m painting a Doomsday scenario. Far from it.

    In 2000 the pop of W.Hartford was 63,589
    49,544 were over 18
    These are all eligible drivers and car owners.
    1000 Priuses, or 2% of this group would seem to be a very possible figure for a $20K car.

    When you consider some of the attitudes in this town, that figure might even prove low.

    Remember all the screaming last spring when the BOE & the Town had to come up with their cuts.

    I’ll come back to the original idea for buying a Prius, it was to benefit from the savings in the cost of gas. The people buying these cars are already getting a nice boost in the pocket book.

    And I’m not certain, but doesn’t the State give them a perk as well?

  39. Elliot Check

    That should have read 70% * book value=assessed value

  40. Sean McCann

    One correction to my earlier post. The figure Elliot came up with would be around .25% of our current budget, I think. Which raises the question–just how little would you be willing to spend to (a) help fight global warming; and (b) make life in our town cleaner, healthier, more pleasant and safer. Our current budget spends a good deal more on leaf collection and about as much on maintaining ball fields as Elliot’s unlikely scenario predicts.

  41. Hey Visconti, Adler, Check. I want to formally cancel that request for the Bat-Signal now that McCann is back. We’ve got him to help us fight crime, pollution, global warming, Godzilla, the Legion of Doom, tax cuts, spending cuts, and all threats real and imagined.

    Heck, even a Bruce Wayne financed-Batman couldn’t afford to register the Batmobile in this town anyway. And he might find himself facing a fine at this rate – how much fuel do you think twin jet turbo rocket propelled vehicles use?

  42. Elliot Check

    King – Ya think that the next time the BOE needs $5ooK Sean will accept the answer that it’s only .25% of the current budget. I guess he feels Quest would be worth the sacrafice.

  43. Sean McCann

    Sigh. It really is sad the state to which contemporary conservatism seems to have been reduced. It would be nice to think that the people you disagreed with actually gave some thought to their positions or felt genuine concern about public policy. Instead, at least around this blog, its yahoos like Pitchfork Joe Visconti and our local monarchist and president of the flat-earth society, The King. Like I said when this discussion started, I don’t know anything about tax policy myself, so I’d welcome being corrected by people who actually displayed some knowledge or thoughtfulness about the issues. Too bad no one like that shows up. Instead its people like Elliot Check, whose apparently desperate grasp for objections (hey, what about the Viper driver?! and don’t forget, people have bad driving habits! and, wait, um, what if everyone starts registering their cars out of state?!!) just makes obvious that they have no interest in thinking about the proposal seriously. Any old dubious objection will do. If like Gary (whose list of excellent questions went notably unaddressed), eafinct, or myself, you’re foolish enough to try to actually engage these guys on the merits, what you get in return is a cloud of smoke and a bronx cheer. Pathetic.

  44. turtle

    Here, cons, have a little more rope!

  45. You know what the problem is about contemporary liberals? They have no sense of humor. You guys pout in the corner like little girls finding everything wrong with our great nation. You are bunch of sallys. Then you go into “teaching” to try to undo 250 years of perfection by twisting history to suit your own needs. If the blog is suffering, its suffering from the hyprocritical mono-tone nonsense being written by the likes of you, and that genious turtle.

    Pitchforks, Monarchists, Desparate grasps…

    The only question needing an answer is precisely what the heck are you smoking over there Mr. Gym teacher, sir? Hey bud, just because you claim Global Warming is real because Al Gore told you so, doesn’t mean 50 thousand credible scientists are wrong.

    Sean, have you ever split your ticket? Or is the Cartel Union Cool-Aid too strong over there?

  46. Tom Cooke

    If we really want to prove our “green” credentials then the town ought to adopt green building design standards: Any publicly-financed building project should adhere to some national standard for energy efficiency, environmental standards, etc.

  47. And if you don’t know anything about tax policy, for Godsakes… doesn’t the school you teach in have any books? You could learn about tax policy in about a week of study. And you complain we are the lazy, unsophisticated ones bearing pitchforks?? There’s the pot calling the kettle black?

  48. TWC

    I am concerned that the frivolous objections raised so far to this proposal are more motivated by a fundamental objection to this Town embracing the moral imperative to address global warming than anything else. However, I can understand that mindset, since global warming undoubtedly poses an inconvenient truth to those of us who would prefer to believe the falsehoods propagated by the fossil fuel industry and continue our gas-guzzling, never-can-consume-enough, way of life.

    But isn’t it exactly these types of issues where an enlightened government plays such a vital role, because who among us can admit that we won’t need a little prodding by the government—either with a stick or as here, with a tax-break carrot—to get us moving in the right direction on global warming?

    That’s why I support this proposal and urge all who are more interested in denying the truth about global warming than protecting the poor or the Town’s revenue base to be honest about the underlying motive for such phony concerns.

  49. EJ

    TWC –

    You embrace a “moral imperative”
    and feel that global warming is “An Inconvenient Truth”

    So have you bought your Prius yet?

    Why would you and the other greenies need any more incentive to buy a Prius.

    Only a tax break from the town will get you to move on it? The car is priced in the $20K range, not exactly the most expensive car out there.
    The price and gas savings should be more than enough incentive for you.

  50. turtle

    I wholeheartedly agree with TWC. It isn’t simply a matter of incentives, although initiatives to promote gas and energy-efficient practices should be encouraged. It’s also the responsibility of government to demonstrate leadership on an issue that even the Governator has embraced as critical to the future well-being of everyone.

    hybridcenter.org is a helpful resource on tax and other incentives for consumers.

  51. EJ

    So Turtle have you purchased your Prius yet?

  52. I don’t understand why we should give tax breaks to the same crowd that seems to want to spend our tax dollars and raise taxes the most?

    EJ: While we ponder our effort to make small emissions reductions here and there, who is to stop the Russian and Chinese governments (and other guilty nation states) from their mega-polluting practices under socialist rule? Before we call for shutting down our factories and putting our nation at a serious disadvantage economically, wouldn’t we want to work on a level playing field?

    Also, someone pointed out that Mini-Vans get about 2-3 mpg more than SUVs, yet you never hear anyone anyone rallying against mini-van drivers?

    Hey, I’d like a family vehicle that gets 100 miles to the gallon to. Just make the vehicle cost and new fuel affordable.

  53. EJ

    King, I agree with the level playing field premise.
    I also agree with the mini-van v suv issue.

    But it seems interesting that the only thing that will get these guys to buy the vehicles in question is a tax break. You’d think that taking a $50/ gas fill up every week ($2600/year) and reducing it to $50/fill up every other week($1300/year) would be enough. Of course I’m assuming a vehicle getting 20mpg vs a vehicle getting 40mpg. The same assumption could be made in going from 13mpg to 26mpg.

    These savings far outstrip the tax issue!

  54. Gary Reger

    Tax policy is social policy. We give huge tax breaks to homeowners because we believe it is better for families to own than rent. We place huge taxes on cigarettes because they are a demonstrated health hazard.

    So if we think high-mileage cars are better than low, it makes sense to adjust our tax structure accordingly. Arguments about “incentivizing” the sandal-wearers seem to me beside the point.

    As to the matter of Chinese and Russian contributions to global warming, this objection reminds me of the little boy who argues to his parents that he shouldn’t be punished for breaking windows because Tommy down the street isn’t.

    The reasons the Chinese and Russians (especially the Chinese) are contributing so much to global warming are complicated, but part of the problem is that the US refused to limit greenhouse gasses through the Kyoto Protocol, and the Chinese have used that as an excuse for their own egregious behavior. Another part is our own insatiable demand for cheap consumer goods, and yet another the morally abhorent disdain of the Chinese leadership for the health of their own population. (The New York Times recently ran a shocking story on the damage coal mining and burning wreak on ordinary Chinese citizens.)

    One must remember too that no one is calling for “shutting down our factories” — that is, the handful that the multinational owners have not themselves already shut down and moved to China. We are talking about a proposal to bring our tax structure on automobiles into line with our (or at least some of ours) sense of social and moral responsibility.

  55. EJ

    So Gary, your saying that the gas savings, the benefit to the environment are not enough incentive for you to buy one of these vehicles. You’ll only do it with a tax break?

    I assume the answer to my question on whether or not you have yet purchased a Prius is No.

  56. Great Gary. Really helpful comment. Little boy story or not I don’t by into your logic that the Chinese are contributing to Green House emissions because we didn’t sign the Kyoto agreement (are you sure you meant it that way?).

    We didn’t sign the Kyoto agreement because of the contents, deadlines, and demands aimed at us.

    But how about answering the question….

    How do you plan to get the Russian and Chinese Governments to reduce carbon emissions? Do you think our signing of the Treaty would really change their attitudes? I’m not that gullible.

  57. turtle

    I don’t understand why we should give tax breaks to the same crowd that seems to want to spend our tax dollars and raise taxes the most?

    Who’s this “we”, Kemo Sabe? But I guess you would also have to be the keeper of the purse in your kingdom of one.

    So Turtle have you purchased your Prius yet?

    I wish!

    But it seems interesting that the only thing that will get these guys to buy the vehicles in question is a tax break.

    Of course that’s not true. As was mentioned above, a tax incentive is but one factor among many when choosing a car. The broader point that you seem to be willfully ignoring is that the government has a duty to responsibly address global warming. The Bush administration has utterly failed to do so, but fortunately our town is moved to do the right thing.

    On another note, I wish West Hartford dry cleaners would sell their customers reusable clothes bags, because all that plastic doesn’t appear to be recyclable. Or is it?

  58. Gary Reger

    EJ —

    No, I don’t have a Prius. The reasons have nothing to do with tax incentives or otherwise — rather that we are not in a position to buy a new car now at all. (I will also confess that, having ridden in a Prius, I dislike the styling a lot.) Our next car will be either a hybrid or a very high mileage standard car, tax incentive or not.

    But this doesn’t get to the question of social policy. If your social policy says X is good and Y is bad, your tax policy should correspond. That’s really the point — I agree with you that, except on the margin, a slight tax benefit to buying a 40+ mpg car will probably not turn many consumers.

    Your appeal to market forces cross-posted with mine. Obviously any market-based argument deserves serious consideration. We know that the Prius has been very popular — long waits, no discounts. I don’t know how the demand sorts out — how much is generated purely by anticipated cost savings in fuel, how much by pro-environmentalism, how much by fashion and the activity of early adapters. It would be interesting to know. But let’s say the market is pretty successful in driving consumers toward the Prius. Then I think there are two questions about Town tax policy. First, should we adjust tax policy to send a signal, regardless of whether it increases the buying of Priuses? Second, do we believe there are purchasers on the margin who could be tipped toward a Prius by the extra incentive of a tax break?

    If we answer both questions “No,” that’s the end of the story. If, however, we answer either question “Yes,” then we need to ask how much loss of revenue from auto taxes we will accept to carry out this policy, and how we will offset that loss. We still do not have the data necessary to make those judgments (how big is the proposed tax break and what gross dollar figure do we estimate it would produce?)

    King —

    My analogy about breaking windows was flippant and obviously not helpful, so let’s set that aside.

    1. Kyoto. Here is my point: The US has no moral suasion with the Chinese because we refused to sign Kyoto. The Chinese government has stated publicly that it sees no reason why it should be bound by limits to greenhouse gas emissions if the US is not. Even though Chinese emissions have been rising rapidly, the US remains the world’s largest single source of greenhouse gasses. Our refusal to reign in our emissions unless the Chinese do so might make some sense if they were ahead of us, but they are not.

    2. If you want someone to do something you need to understand how they think. The Chinese leadership faces a big problem. They run a repressive, anachronistic regime. They see the guarantee of their continued power in pulling off a finesse no other state has yet done: embracing liberalized, free-market economic reform and light-speed industrialization to compete in a global market without liberal political reform. They believe they’ve found the formula in a race to production based on their enormous coal reserves, accomplished as cheaply as possible by ignoring worker and product safety and the health of the environment. A slow-down in this plan could spell disaster, as an economic downturn might lead to political unrest. So the Chinese are “incentivized” to use any excuse they can to put off accepting limits on greenhouse gasses. Our refusal to accept the Kyoto Protocol (and this is unrelated to whether you think Kyoto was a good idea or not) played right into their hands.

    So, how to get the Chinese to do what we want?

    First, we must be unimpeachable in our own behavior. Unless we impose stringent limits on ourselves, the Chinese will simply say we just want to stop their development, and they will never accept limits.

    Second, we have to ask what behavior of our own — which we can affect much more easily than we can affect Chinese behavior directly — could have an impact. One obvious answer is to reduce our demand for cheap Chinese goods.

    Third, we have to be international leaders in bringing the Chinese to heel. Unless we show that we take carbon emissions seriously at home by acting here, no first-world countries will follow us. This indeed has been the problem since Bush reneged on his 2000 promise to sign Kyoto.

    I hope that answers your “playing field” question.

  59. I don’t think we will influence the Chinese Govt to abide by Kyoto even if we signed it. I doubt they will follow our lead.

    Note this take on Kyoto by the Journal – Science (not a right wing publication).

    “UNSUSTAINABLE REGULATION
    The harm is that Phase I would lock America into an all-economic-pain-for-no-environmental-gain regulatory regime that can only end in failure. This assessment is confirmed by a seminal study published in the November 1, 2002, issue of the journal Science.

    “The study, co-authored by 18 energy and climate experts, examined possible technology options that might be used in coming decades to stabilize atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations. Such options include wind and solar energy, nuclear fission and fusion, biomass fuels, efficiency improvements, carbon sequestration, and hydrogen fuel cells. The authors found that “all these approaches currently have severe deficiencies that limit their ability to stabilize global climate.” They specifically took issue with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s claim that “known technological options could achieve a broad range of atmospheric CO2 stabilization levels, such as 550 ppm, 450 ppm or below over the next 100 years.”

    As noted in the study, world energy demand could triple by 2050. Yet, “energy sources that can produce 100 to 300 percent of present world power consumption without greenhouse emissions do not exist operationally or as pilot plants.” The bottom line: “CO2 is a combustion product vital to how civilization is powered; it cannot be regulated away.”

    “Proponents will undoubtedly argue, as they did last fall, that we need not worry about the bill’s economic impact because Phase I is just a “modest” first step in addressing global climate change. A recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) analysis suggests otherwise. According to EIA, Phase I would increase: gasoline prices by 9 percent in 2010 and 19 percent in 2025; natural-gas prices in the industrial and electric-power sectors by 21 percent in 2010 and 58 percent in 2025; and electricity prices by 35 percent in 2025. ”

    Further, Phase I would reduce U.S. GDP by $760 billion during 2004-2025 (or $290 billion in present value).”

  60. Kyoto Protocol: Bad Policy Based on Bad Science

    Why Isn’t the Administration Telling Us the Truth about the Science Behind this Treaty?

    Tomorrow is Earth Day. The President may choose to celebrate the event by signing the Kyoto Protocol on Global Climate Change. Yet, more than 15,000 scientists signed a petition urging the U.S. government to reject the Kyoto treaty and any other similar proposal.

    Of the engineers, scientists, economists and other signatories of the petition, more than 40
    percent hold doctorate degrees in their field. What’s their reason for opposition? As they say:
    There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the
    foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.

    Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of Earth.”
    And, so why would this Administration insist on holding the obviously flawed Kyoto
    protocol in such high public esteem? [See, also, a separate RPC paper, uThe Gang That
    Couldn’t Talk Straight Rides Again: Administration Contradicts its Own Estimates of Kyoto Treaty’s Costs,” 4/21/98, addressing the flawed economic assumptions behind the protocol.]

    What is the consensus in the scientific community on whether human activity is contributing to the warming of our climate? There is none. But, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that warming and cooling of our climate is something that has gone on for a very long time and likely will continue to go on – with human actions perhaps playing a limited role.

    What Does The Science Say?

    Supporters of the climate change calamity theory gather strength from the 1995 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Summary for Policymakers, which said in part …The balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on global climate.” In fact, though, the 2,500 IPICC scientists did not contribute to or endorse the six-page Summary for Policymakers.” Indeed, there is evidence that the 1995 IPCC report was doctored to conform with the policy judgments contained in the Summary. Professor Frederick Seitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal on June 12, 1996, ‘In my more than 60 years as a member of
    the American scientific community, including service as president of both the National
    Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more
    disturbing corruption of ihe peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report.”

    Dr. Seitz goes on in his article to note several deletions from the approved Chapter 8 draft that
    expressed doubts about “a discernable human influence” by scientists participating in the IPCC
    review process. They are:

    1. ‘None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the
    observed [climate] changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases.”

    2. “No study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed to
    date] to anthropogenic [man-made] causes.”

    3. ‘Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain
    controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced.”

    As a result of such manipulation of information, many in the scientific community have
    concluded that the report was altered to support the conclusions obtained by the “Summary for
    Policymakers” solely for political purposes.

    Nowhere does the IPCC summary actually claim temperatures would rise between 1.8 and 6.3
    degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Rather, these numbers are the results of assumed scenarios and assumed climate responses from model calculations, according to Dr. Fred Singer in an article in the Washington Times on July 1, 1997. Dr. Singer goes on to say, “The report itself (page 434) specifically disclaims that studies of climate patterns can ‘quantify the magnitude’ of a green house gas effect on climate.”

    A review of the scientific literature measuring historical changes in the earth’s climate reveals
    no genuinely long-term, consistent rise in temperature. Indeed, such a review indicates that Earth’s temperature has varied over time up and down – gradually. A recent article in Science on February 27, 1998, noted, ” The record shows that temperature variations are far greater during glacial periods (ice ages) than during interglacial periods. North Atlantic sea temperatures, for example, varied by as much as 3 to 4.5 degrees C during glacial periods 450,000 and 350,000 years ago, while they only varied by about 0.5 to 1 degree C during the interglacial period which fell in between.”

    The Kyoto Protocol is a Solution in Search of a Problem

    If there is no convincing evidence that Earth’s climate is changing drastically, and, if there is
    no discernable evidence that human activity is causing our planet’s temperature to rise, why then the urgency? Perhaps because, as H.L. Mencken noted, “the urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” This administration’s policy on the matter of climate change is an urge to rule how people use energy, and demonstrates its longstanding opposition to the use of fossil fuels and its determination to wean the American people away from them – no matter what the cost.

    In summary, as Senator Craig noted on the Senate floor this week, “as more and more American
    scientists review the available data on global warming, it is becoming increasingly clear that the vast majority believe the commitments for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions made by the Administration in the Kyoto Protocol is an unnecessary response to an exaggerated threat.”

    Staff Contact: John Peschke, 224-2946

  61. Sorry for the poor posting above, but the documents were worth presenting for the side of the debate questioning the legitimacy of the global warming argument. Better to post it, then to try to rearticulate it.

  62. turtle

    I here helpfully provide the cite you managed not to mention at 8:33, from the National Review (a publication you might just call a rightwing rag).

    You’re welcome.

  63. Gary Reger

    King —

    I seem not to be making myself clear. I did not mean to say the Chinese would have abided by Kyoto if we had signed it; I meant to say not signing it gave the Chinese a perfect excuse to ignore their own greenhouse gas emissions. If you want someone to behave, you must behave yourself. US policy since our withdrawal from Kyoto has been to deny the reality of global warming, quash the science, and spread ridicule. Had we signed Kyoto, not only would the Chinese have been robbed of the argument that we were not sincere, but we would also have had the global support of the other signatories in pressuring China.

    You don’t note that the material you quote is not from the Science article but from a June 16, 2004, online editorial in the National Review (whose political leaning to the far right I think we will all acknowledge) criticizing not Kyoto per se but rather the Climate Stewardship Act sponsored by John McCain and Joe Lieberman. (The bill did not pass, but introduced the notion of “cap-and-trade” which industry now supports as the best solution to carbon limitations.) The editorial argues that the bill is just a stealth Kyoto.

    As for the article in Science, it criticized Kyoto for being too weak: no way, its authors concluded, were the Kyoto targets anywhere near strong enough to have any impact on global warming. The NR‘s representation of the Science article was disingenuous, in my reading.

  64. Gary Reger

    King —

    There is no “other side” to the climate change question. This matter is settled science. The “summary” quoted from the lamented Senator Craig is nothing but complete and utter fabrication.

    It is long time to put aside this pseudo-debate and turn to the far more pressing and real and very difficult question of how our public policy should respond to a problem the likes of which we have never before faced.

    Thanks Turtle for saying the right thing so succinctly. I do ten to go on!

  65. turtle

    “I do tend to go on!”

    Fortunately for us all!

  66. David Jones

    I’m really surprised that anyone supports this initiative YET! I don’t know the details, perhaps some of you do.

    I’m open to listening to the details but I need to see a very basic cost/benefit analysis before I can sign on.

    Let me say that global warming or not, we can all agree that clean air is better than dirty air and we can all agree that automobiles contribute to dirty air.

    But what does this proposal cost and what is the benefit?

    What are the polution levels in West Hartford currently?

    How much will this proposal impact polution levels?

    How much will this cost the town in tax dollars on the day of implementation?

    What are the projections of the cost in tax revenue to town going forward?

    How many citizens will actually buy a fuel efficient car if this is enacted vs. the number who will buy if it is not? Are we rewarding good behavior and just giving away tax dollars or are we actually influencing good behavior?

    I’m cautious when it comes to social engineering through tax policy, especially at the local level. Clearly there will be some shift in tax burden if a subgroup is given a tax break. How much of a shift? Again, what is the cost and what’s the benefit. The basic statement of “cleaner air” isn’t enough. How much cleaner?

    Surely we don’t believe that an insignificant change in our air quality is worth a major shift in tax burden. Perhaps a significant improvement in air quality is. Perhaps it’s a minor shift in tax burden. But without some data how are we to know if this is actually a good proposal. I understand many of us are concerned with air pollution but we shouldn’t jump on this bandwagon until we have more information.

    I fear that this could be more about politics and less about policy, but when the details emerge we will know the answer to that question.

    If you accept global warming as fact, and if you support the underlying objective of encouraging fuel efficient cars, you still don’t yet know if this is good policy. If something costs a lot and achieves a little it’s generally not a good thing. I’m not suggesting this costs a lot or achieves a little, I’m suggesting we don’t know and we need to find out before we accept this as good policy.

    If someone has the details please share them with the rest of us.

  67. Gary Reger

    I’ve asked repeatedly for the data, but no one seems to have them.

  68. Sean McCann

    Surely we don’t believe that an insignificant change in our air quality is worth a major shift in tax burden.

    C’mon, David. Let’s be serious about this. I think there are good questions you can raise about this policy–among others the fact that it might not achieve much. True, it could be a largely symbolic gesture, though nevertheless to my mind a step in a good direction. But the thought that it’s going to involve a major shift in tax burden isn’t credible. Take Eliot Check’s fanciful numbers, which he seems to have pulled out of his hat. Even at that extreme, what you’d be talking about at most would be low-mpg drivers shouldering a handful of dollars more per year. The greater liklihood is a still more trivial amount. On the other side of the ledger has to be counted, yes, less pollution. But also, to reiterate, lower road maintenance costs and safer roads. These are not trivial goods. And, again to reiterate myself, those of us who don’t drive high mpg cars are now carrying a burden imposed by gas guzzlers. If you want to drive a dangerous and dirty car, is there any reason why it would be unfair to ask you to pay a few bucks for the privilege?

  69. Fred Garvin

    Joe:
    Why all the venom? You seem quite unhappy. Have you considered adding some bran to your diet?

  70. Gary, you side stepped the argument about how Kyoto would unevenly hurt the US economy (4x the implication than European states). Surely this means something to someone interested in seeing US economic prosperity continue. Kyoto clearly demands compliance in a way that US manufacturers couldn’t possibly comply with in a short time. I’m not sure if you work in business or not, but altering industry direction doesn’t happen overnight. These things take planning and time.

    Second, there is a misread somewhere that the scientists didn’t sign because they thought Kyoto didn’t go far enough. I don’t think that we are referring to those. We are referring to the 15,000 scientists that felt the science was poor. See the second study above.

    Third, ok. Climate change is happening. It appears so …. BUT, and this is where you and McCann and others, and our guys who are not just right wing conservatives but also scientists part ways – IS THE CLIMATE CHANGE NATURAL (as NOAA and other orgs have pointed out) or is it MAN MADE? This is the argument that irks folks on the left because it takes the wind out of their argument. There is plenty of evidence (recorded data) that shows climate change has been occuring in cycles for hundreds of years. This is pretty much the same with other weather patterns that we monitor.

    You can let Turtle know that just because a position is printed by NR or Wall Street Journal doesn’t immediately invalidate the arguments presented. (Ha, Ha!) I’m sure this is hard for him to fathom. And just because something isn’t printed in The Nation doesn’t mean its true either, but it is worth reading as political journals like NR and The Nation do built their cases on facts, but have different angles. So let’s not be small minded and attack the source. National Review is a well respected journal. I would point out that CSPAN (not a right wing organization by any means) often has reputable journalist from right and left publications including the two I’ve mentioned.

  71. David Jones

    Sean, lifting someone’s words and using them out of context isn’t intellectually honest. I didn’t suggest there would be a major shift in tax burden, I raised the question. If you choose to support something withouth having the details, that’s your choice to make. I just believe there is more to making a decision than supporting the underlying goal.

    And no, I don’t want my local tax policy used for a symbolic gesture. I want to know that this proposal would actually accomplish something and that the cost is worth the benefit. To me, that doesn’t seem unreasonable.

  72. David:

    Not to pile on, but your line of thinking is refreshing. There is no reason to change any policy or create any law without being able to show actual benefit from taking such action.

    This is where the green lobby (in this case) falls flat. Claiming that West Hartford air would be cleaner or better as a benefit is just plain silly. There is not one iota of evidence to suggest that the West Hartford air is recirculated in its boundaries or that the new green cars (no matter how well intended) would influence the air quality or environment in any way, shape or form.

    Just because something looks like a great idea on paper or by intention, doesn’t validate the intended outcome. This is the same kind of logic used for many decisions made in West Hartford, including hiring greeters for the school.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  73. Gary Reger

    The current climate change is not natural; it is brought on by anthropogenic introduction of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. No reputable scientist disputes this. The debate that NOAA is involved in revolves around the narrow question of whether the current high hurricane pattern is driven by anthropogenic climate change or by a natural cycle.

    I read the study in Science, which concluded that Kyoto was too weak. I’m not sure about your “second study.” You didn’t cite a source, and most notably, it reads like something written in the late 1990s. Even if you accept at face value the claims there, the science has moved a lot in the last 10 years.

    Of course, the impact on the economy was one reason for not submitting Kyoto for ratification. I don’t know whether the arguments were valid or not. Industry in the US has rarely accepted pollution controls voluntarily; government action has been required in almost every case. I have seen studies arguing that all past industry claims about economic harm caused by pollution controls turned out to be false, and you have to admit there is a big element of self-interest when a carbon-based industry tells you cutting carbon emissions will harm the economy. Kyoto did not, by the way, require an immediate change; negotiated in 1997, it set 2012 targets — in other words, countries had 15 years to comply.

  74. turtle

    You can let Turtle know that just because a position is printed by NR or Wall Street Journal doesn’t immediately invalidate the arguments presented.

    My point had nothing to do with the credibility of the National Review, and everything to do with your patent dishonesty.

    You prefaced 8:33 with:

    Note this take on Kyoto by the Journal – Science (not a right wing publication) and then proceeded to paste editorial commentary from a rightwing publication. Shameless.

    David, it’s a given that cost/benefit would be a significant factor in whether enthusiasts ultimately support the policy, but some of us are pleased to see the town moving in this direction. Maybe we’ll hear some numbers this evening at Town Hall.

  75. Gary Reger

    My ignorance is deep — what’s at Town Hall tonight? Is there a Council meeting where this will be discussed?

  76. turtle

    Gary,

    The Town Council meets tonight in the Legislative Chamber (Room 314) at Town Hall. The green car proposal is item #10 on the agenda.

  77. Sean McCann

    David, my apologies if I took you wrong. My impression was that you suggested a major shift in tax burden is a possible outcome of this policy. My point is that it’s not. There’s no reasonable scenario that anyway has yet pointed to by which this policy is likely to result in a major shift in tax burden.

    Meanwhile, if the policy _did_ turn out to be a largely symbolic gesture, its cost would of necessity be trivial. And, to repeat myself ad nauseum, this looks like a policy that, even if they are minor, could produce several good results–not just a lowering of local contributions to greenhouse gases (where the effect would be small, of course, but could easily be multiplied if other localities and states adopted similar policies), but an improvement to our local quality of life through replacing big heavy cars with smaller, lighter ones. I am genuinely curious to know why these do not seem appealing goals to everyone.

  78. Gary Reger

    They appeal to me, Sean.

  79. Mr. Bean

    Global warming and Al Gore is junk science designed to create more taxation and reward those who fall in lock step with Gore’s idiocy.

    This tax incentive being considered by Slifka (and Co.) is just a way for him to get a headline.

    If they really wanted to incentivitze conservation in West Hartford they should give tax breaks to everyone whose car gets good mileage (hybrid or not), whose house has just installed energy efficient windows, or can prove that they are otherwise conserving, etc. – otherwise this tax break is nothing more than another BS gimmick. It is an unfair tax break and the folks who get penalized are the ones who get to pick up the tab for those who get the tax break, or perhaps do not have the means to purchase a hybrid vehicle.

    Better yet, they ought to lower taxes across the board.

  80. turtle

    If they really wanted to incentivitze conservation in West Hartford they should give tax breaks to everyone whose car gets good mileage (hybrid or not)

    The Town Council agenda for tonight’s meeting describes the proposal as:

    *Ordinance (Slifka, Spada, Coursey, Thornberry, McClay, Cantor, Verrengia) promoting energy efficiency and independence through tax and parking exemptions for certain fuel-efficient
    vehicles.

    So you got your wish!

    Tax breaks are also available for installing energy-efficient windows (although perhaps not from the town).

  81. Elliot Check

    Sean – you accuse me of making up numbers. I was providing what if estimates based on cost and current tax levels in the town.

    Should the Council adopt the new law, it will not go into effect until 10/08

    Today there are 3 cars that meet the criterea:
    Toyota Prius Hybrid
    Toyota Camry Hybrid
    Honda Civic Hybrid

    total town population of these 3 vehiles is 121 vehicles.
    Tax loss to the town today, if the law was in effect would be approximately $80,000 or $661/car.

    My tax est/vehicle was LOW, my apologies.
    Should the law pass do you really find it so hard to believe that people would look to replace older vehicles with these to avoid the tax. I just purchased a car for my son, it was just under this price range, I most certainly would have considered one of these instead to save the taxes. Frankly the gas savings would have been negligible because of the limited driving he does. Same for my other son, who just took his car to college, it sits in the lot most of the time.

    Net effect, minimal gas savings, max tax savings, problem for the town budget as the numbers of these vehicles grow. AND GROW THEY WILL!

  82. turtle

    I thought the criteria specified 40 mpg+.

    In that case, there are more than 3 cars that meet the criteria, and they’re not all hybrids.

  83. Elliot:

    I wonder how the left would feel if we offset green car tax cuts with cuts to the teacher’s increase this year. Wonder if they’d put their money where their mouth is.

    Yes, turtle, you are shameless. A shameless creep for twisting everyone’s words around. Your point is you have no point. You are the most dishonest person the board, period. Come up with one original thought for a change. Take a risk.

    Stop cutting and pasting pieces of everyone’s else material and taking everything out of context. Anyone can sit back and do what you do.

  84. TWC

    Sean, they don’t appeal to me because I don’t want to give up the short-term pleasures of a life-style dependent upon the ravenousness consumption of fossil fuels. And I can sooth my guilt for my self-absorbed behavior by latching on to one of the lame excuses propounded above:

    (A) Global warming is a natural phenomenon that man has no role in causing, contributing to, or bothering to address;
    (B) If another country, state, town, or neighbor isn’t going to the trouble to address this problem, then what difference does it make if my country, state, town or I fail to do the right thing to begin addressing this problem?
    (C) Doing the right thing is going to blow a hole in my country’s, state’s, or town’s budget that can only be addressed by unfairly burdening the taxpayers who are too poor to alter their purchase decisions.
    (D) Since we don’t have solid empirical data that establishes without any doubt that adopting enlightened tax policies will do anything to alter people’s purchases decisions, then why bother?

    It is this last excuse that on its face has the most appeal to those who may still be on the fence about this proposal.

    But how would governmental bodies ever move forward on any front if they required unambiguous and conclusive proof before adopting totally new tax proposals designed to alter taxpayers’ purchase decisions? Whatever studies have ever been done in the past in similar contexts (e.g., IRA retirement savings accounts) have always been more of an educated guess than anything else.

    Thus, I believe the leaders of this Town need to apply their common sense and economic intuition in the absence of such iron-clad data when deciding whether or not to support this proposal. After all, isn’t it the act of making the right decision in the absence of complete data that separates a truly gifted leader from a run-of-the-mill one?

  85. TWC

    Sean, they don’t appeal to me because I don’t want to give up the short-term pleasures of a life-style dependent upon the ravenousness consumption of fossil fuels. And I can sooth my guilt for my self-absorbed behavior by latching on to one of the lame excuses propounded above:

    (A) Global warming is a natural phenomenon that man has no role in causing, contributing to, or bothering to address;
    (B) If another country, state, town, or neighbor isn’t going to the trouble to address this problem, then what difference does it make if my country, state, town or I fail to do the right thing to begin addressing this problem?
    (C) Doing the right thing is going to blow a hole in my country’s, state’s, or town’s budget that can only be addressed by unfairly burdening the taxpayers who are too poor to alter their purchase decisions.
    (D) Since we don’t have solid empirical data that establishes without any doubt that adopting enlightened tax policies will do anything to alter people’s purchases decisions, then why bother?

    It is this last excuse that on its face has the most appeal to those who may still be on the fence about this proposal.

    But how would governmental bodies ever move forward on any front if they required unambiguous and conclusive proof before adopting totally new tax proposals designed to alter taxpayers’ purchase decisions? Whatever studies have ever been done in the past in similar contexts (e.g., IRA retirement savings accounts) have always been more of an educated guess than anything else.

    Thus, I believe the leaders of this Town need to apply their common sense and economic intuition in the absence of such iron-clad data when deciding whether or not to support this proposal. After all, isn’t it the act of making the right decision in the absence of complete data that separates a truly gifted leader from a run-of-the-mill one?

  86. Elliot Check

    Turtle – those are the 3 cars the assessors office told me would qualify
    plus 2 others, of which there are noe in town at this time – the Corrola manual and the Yaris manual (Yaris auto doesn’t cut it)

  87. TWC

    Sorry everyone for the duplicate post. A system hiccup when I tried submitting my comment instructed me to “refresh” the page, which I suspect caused the second submission.

  88. turtle

    Yes, turtle, you are shameless. A shameless creep for twisting everyone’s words around. Your point is you have no point. You are the most dishonest person the board, period. Come up with one original thought for a change. Take a risk.

    hahahaha Just for that I’m going to start calling you “Judy”. You can’t deny that what I posted is true, so you resort to the same old tired ad hominem attack. Don’t be so pathetic, the evidence is there for all to see!

    Elliot, here’s the link that I screwed up above. But the number of qualified vehicles is a quibble. $80,000 seems a pittance to pay for the benefit of fewer noxious, gas-guzzling behemoths running roughshod through our town. And your particular situation with your son’s car can’t be generalized–the likelihood is slim that all consumers who opt to take advantage of the incentive will bilk the town only to leave their cars idle. You’re apocalyptic about the possibility of people switching en masse to fuel-efficient vehicles as if that’s a bad thing!

    Before anybody starts howling about the Middle School Quest FTE ($62,500), I voted Yes on last year’s budget referendum.

    Hey TWC, encore!

  89. Elliot Check

    Turtle, The information I used was from the Assessor as of today. I’m sure it will change as more vehicles become available.

  90. Gary Reger

    Can anyone who caught yesterday’s Town Council meeting report on the discussion and action on the 40+ mpg proposal? I meant to watch but was deep in a good book and totally forgot.

  91. turtle

    The replay is on tonight at 10:00 p.m. (on channel 5?).

  92. Elliot Check

    They were confusing about it.
    I wanted to speak on it, but they said it would be taken up in a public forum, so not up for discussion last night.
    Then it looked like they sent it back to Budget & Finance, not sure why.

  93. TWC

    EJ, although I recognize your reference to me as a “greenie” is an ad hominem put-down that doesn’t deserve a response, your implied challenge that I might be guilty of the same mortal sin your hero Senator Larry Craig is guilty of (no King, not homosexuality–hypocrisy) certainly deserves a response. It cuts to the heart of why this Town should adopt this proposal if “greenies” like me are going to buy more fuel efficient automobiles anyway.

    I consider myself one of the “poorer” members of this community that David Jones, Elliot Clark and others have so no nobly stepped forward to defend. (I just hope they will be as quick to defend those of us who pay Federal taxes at a higher marginal rate, i.e., 25%, than their buddies in the hedge fund business do right now, i.e., 15%.) I drive an ’86 Volvo that I bought 16 years ago that now has 325,000 miles on it, but still runs great.

    I admit that I wasn’t as informed (or as concerned) about global warming as I am now when I purchased this car. And I’ll also admit that if I was a true “greenie,” I would apply the $250.00 I’d probably get for my Volvo on trade-in and purchase one of these more environmentally-friendly vehicles no matter what the impact might be on my family’s finances.

    But like most people in my economic class, I have other priorities that compete for the too few dollars left in my back account after feeding my three kids, paying my mortgage, and saving for my kids’ education. And just like any of us, the more immediate, short-term wants of my family predominate over the long-term and seemingly indirect gains derived from fully embracing the need to do my fair share to address global warming.

    So while I will probably replace my Volvo when it dies with a more environmentally-friendly vehicle even in the absence of this tax benefit, the long-term vision and leadership provided by this Town if they offer this tax incentive can only help to assure that I–and all similarly situated residents who are weighing the pros and cons of purchasing one of these cars–will have even less of a financial excuse not to do the right thing when the time comes to make this purchase decision.

  94. Bob Holland

    I still don’t get it. It will make zero difference to anyone, it will assist a few – very few – purchasers of a new qualified car but probably barely effective at the very margins, too many other more important considerations. Basically buying one of these cars is just buying a “car sticker” rather than a bumper sticker, and the buyer can be smug in the employee parking lot and on the Mass. Pike. And, to top it all off, my town politicians think you should buy the car too and they’re willing, I guess in their fiduciary role, to subsidize it to the tune of a few hundred bucks.

    If passing it will make the politicians feel good about themselves and they can hope for some lasting approval from WH resident voters who think in varying shades of “green” – generally democrats (duh), then go for it. Harmless and a cheap way to keep them occupied and they’re able to claim some kind of merit badge at election time.

    Does an electric golf cart get a tax break?

  95. Osemasterofdoom

    TWC: You make some good points, however I am hoping that you are not lumping together all of us of the Republican/conservative persuasion as hedge fund fatcats. There are also those of us who drive ancient cars (1991 Honda) and struggle to keep up with life’s expenses. I am not saying that was your intent, but I thought I would mention it.

    Along that same line, is there anyone else that is a little leery of elected officials using the tax code to shape they type of world they want to see? Don’t get me wrong: I believe the car tax proposal has only the best of intentions. But if the power to tax is indeed the power to destroy, then isn’t the power to remove taxation the power to create? I think we have reached the point where advocates of the left and the right have come to view the tax code as a vehicle to enact social policies that they would not be able to pass as stand-alone legislation. And don’t forget that all of these credits and rebates add more complexity to an already arcane tax system (granted, that’s more true at the federal level, but even that had to start somewhere).

    I’ll post more later. Right now I have to go to the bank to cash the tax refund I got from the home mortgage interest deduction. 😉

  96. TWC

    No, Osemasterofdoom, I don’t think all Republicans are of the “greed is good” camp. My great-great grandfather was a member of John C. Fremont’s western expeditions and until the Great Depression—when Herbert Hoover chose rugged individualism over compassionate conservatism—all the members of my family were staunch Republicans. So I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for your party. (My wife often accuses me of being a “closet Republican.”)

    I may be naïve, but I truly have faith that someday the Republican Party will redefine itself and return to the core principles upon which it was founded, at which time I could very easily seeing myself voting Republican.

    And if there was ever a better place or moment in time for that to happen than in West Hartford, I don’t know where or when that would be? But because of your party’s apparent unwillingness to take Gary Reger up on his challenge and divorce yourself from the greedy financiers, chicken-hawks, and social extremists that dominate the Republican Party at the national level, you can only look forward to a dwindling number of Republican voters at the polls this fall.

    Very sad. (Maybe my wife is right.)

  97. turtle

    My great-great grandfather was a member of John C. Fremont’s western expeditions…

    Wow! Did he keep a journal?!

  98. TWC

    No, but there are some great letters to his wife about his days as a ’49er in the California gold country.

    He was what I always picture as the true essence of a Republican: a tireless entrepreneur who believed government should do all it could to encourage and unleash the full potential of all Americans, not just those from a privileged race, religion or economic class.

    How sad (post Goldwater and Reagan) that government is now positioned as the enemy of the people by the Republican Party, and not as an active partner that plays a vital role in unleashing the full potential of all Americans without ignoring the obligation we all have to make responsible choices (which I believe is the trap the Democratic Party has fallen into as it scrambles to appease every special interest group under the sun).

  99. TWC

    If only because there doesn’t appear to be anything more interesting to me to comment on here today, two footnotes to our debate on the “greening” of West Hartford:

    From the Federal judge who rejected the fossil fuel industry’s pleas that the states shouldn’t be allowed to avoid their “bought & paid for President” and move forward to address global warming, this particularly relevant quote (per everyone’s favorite fish-wrapper):

    “…The fact that global warming will not be solved by changes in any one industry or by regulation of any one source of emissions in no way undercuts the vital nature of the problem or the validity of partial responses. Rather, it points to the necessity of responses, however incomplete when viewed individually, on any number of fronts..” (Emphasis added.)

    And in the category of ominous signs that something is very different in this world than it’s ever been before, this report on hurricane Humberto (from the S.F. Chronicle):

    “…The stunningly fast buildup of what became Hurricane Humberto shocked scientists, some of whom said there was nothing like it in the historical record

    ‘It’s very, very rare to see a storm go from a depression to a hurricane in this short a time,’ [James Franklin, a senior specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami] said. ‘It’s only happened four times before since 1851, and this is the only one to do this just before landfall’…” (Again, emphasis added.)

  100. Sean McCann

    I know this conversation is over, but I’ve been distracted by other things and didn’t get a chance to mention one or two replies to Elliot Check, Bob Holland, EJ and other opponents of the measure.

    Elliot mentions that there are 121 cars now in WH that fit the proposed criteria and predicts that the numbers will “GROW.” For the reasons mentioned by Bob Holland, and mentioned by me earlier, I doubt that prediction. But let’s say the number doubles, that there are no offsetting savings, and that the difference has to be made up in higher car taxes overall. Taking Elliot’s calculations and assuming that the cost would be 160,000, and considering that there are currently 47,000 cars on the WH grand list, the difference would average out to less than $3.50 per car.

    I fully expect that this will result in hysterical arm waving from sober commenters like the King, but that number surely has to be considered in the context pointed to by TWC. If, like Elliot Check, you can afford to spend in the neighborhood of $40,ooo on cars that will go largely unused, something like $7 does not represent a major shift in tax burden–likewise if you’re a person like EJ, who seems to think that dropping $20,ooo on a new car is a trivial consideration for everyone.

    But the fact that car taxes are mildly progressive does mean that wealthy people, who buy luxury automobiles–which tend to get correspondingly low mpg–would pay slightly more. Given the contempt shown to “greenies” on this thread, I don’t think it’s unfair to point this out. Wealthy people who drive expensive, dirty, heavy, and typically dangerous vehicles may understandably be reluctant to spend a few dollars per year so that fewer people will do the same. But that’s not necessarily a convincing policy rationale.

  101. Gary Reger

    Sean makes a good case.

  102. Elliot Check

    The first thing I find interesting is that those on the pro side seem to feel these cars can’t be afforded with out the tax break. But the property tax break dosn’t help them purchase the vehicle. They would need a sales tax break for that. Last I heard the State was phasing out the State’s break for the purchase of these vehicles, because they were selling anyway.

    Second, should the number grow, which Sean doubts, the town could take the break away. What happens to all those people that needed that property tax break as a reason to purchase the car? Will they suddenly discover that they can no longer afford their cars?

    Third, in today’s Courant the Mayor wants to give property tax breaks to Veterans. A noble desire as far as I’m concerned. We give breaks to the elderly, also a noble idea. But, every time one group gets a break the others in town get a Tax Increase. In his interview on the car tax proposal in the Advocate the Mayor doesn’t like calling this a tax increase, he calls it spreading it around. No matter how you phrase it one group will pay more in the end.

    How badly will it hurt one of the other posters with 3 kids and the old volvo, sounds like he can use a break as well?

    Would the money from this proposed tax break be put to better use rehiring language or english specialists?

  103. Rick Liftig

    Imho – part of being fiscally sound is finding new opportunities to increase revenue so that personal property taxes can be decreased.

    I have heard no one suggest that we develop the underutilized industrial properties in the Southeast section of town and finding methods to increase their productivity and taxable base. If you increase revenue, then you can afford a tax break for veterans, seniors and green folks.

    In the 1950’s and 1960’s, West Hartford’s tax base was subsidized by its significant industrial presence along New Park Avenue. Now that the majority of these companies are long gone, the land has fallen to its lowest possible use.

    What strategies should the town do to make these areas return more to our town?

  104. TWC

    As always, Sean, you convincingly cut to the heart of the matter.

    On a related note, the Courant reports this morning (sorry, the spamonator didn’t like my hyperlink, so I had to delete it) that Vernon has already adopted an ordinance that “…would exempt $1,000 of a vehicle’s value from property tax, meaning that the benefit under the current tax rate would be $32.91 for each owner of an eligible car…”

    So much for West Hartford being the first town in Connecticut to pass such an ordinance.

    But interestingly enough, it was the Democrats in Vernon who played the class-card in an attempt to defeat this ordinance, not the Republicans (who I’ve always thought didn’t have much interest in addressing global warming–having taken their lead on this issue from the national party–and would resort to any argument to defeat such proposals).

    Will the political party in Connecticut that is genuinely committed to addressing global warming please stand up?

  105. turtle

    The first thing I find interesting is that those on the pro side seem to feel these cars can’t be afforded with out the tax break.

    Could you please cite who made this assertion, here or anywhere? The tax break would be an incentive to consumers to be environmentally responsible. I don’t think anyone has argued that it would enable people who would otherwise be unable to do so to buy fuel-efficient cars.

  106. Sean McCann

    Thanks, Gary and TWC. I feel the same about you.

    Elliot, I don’t doubt that sales of the targetted cars will grow, I doubt that, as your typography puts it, they will “GROW.” I.e., I don’t see the big migration that you’re predicting, and I think the reasons to doubt one are pretty obvious.

    Frankly, it’s difficult for me to follow your arguments because you change rationales so often. The Volvo example looks to me like typical smoke. Since car taxes are progressive, people who own old cars will suffer least from whatever minor shift in tax burden might result.

  107. Erin Desmaris

    Small, but salient point Sean:

    Car taxes are not progressive – the same rate is applied to every car.

  108. Sean McCann

    Thank you, Erin. I knew I put that badly. What I meant is that even with flat mill rate, owners of expensive cars will pay a greater share of overall car taxes and so would bear more of the share of the minor shift in tax burden that this policy might create.

  109. turtle

    Rick,

    I remember a discussion here about redevelopment along that desolate stretch of New Britain Avenue east of the overpass. Wasn’t the problem that owners are warehousing some of those properties as tax write-offs? It would be great to have a bowling alley and other teen-friendly establishments over there.

    And whatever happened to the Design District that was supposed to arise on New Park Road (and how many nail salons can one town support)?! I’d be surprised if that flagship furniture store pulls much business.

  110. Why do they need an incentive to buy a car? Either buy it if you want it or don’t buy it. It won’t make a hill of beans difference whether you do or don’t. It just might make people feel that they are really making a difference. Well, good for them, but they don’t need a tax break.

  111. Joe Visconti

    King

    We need to get Green and Clean for our health and if we dont start at home with “SOME” incentives it won’t happen.

    Throwing it out there:
    Subsidizing Billionaire Developers for 50 Million so we can DRIVE/POLLUTE, PARK & PAY and invite more out of Towners to DRIVE/POLLUTE, PARK & PAY in our new garages seemed smart to many residents a couple of years ago, how about we give parking rate breaks to all those Green Cars who want to come and park in the Center or at the meters? We have Special Development Districts, Special Service Districts, how about Special Environment Districts????Debate/Rant please

  112. The whole debate is silly. Well meaning, but silly. Even if 1000 people who live in town buy “green” cars, will that make West Hartford air cleaner? Well, of course not. Only a fool would believe that. If you want to make the kinds of changes that green activists hope for, you need a bold plan that incorporates dozens of mandated measures at once (or phased in at once by a given deadline).

    This needs to involve enforceable laws for auto manufacturing, emissions, business pollution, waste management, etc. (Enforceable meaning if you don’t comply you get shut down or vehicle compounded).

    This a little bit here a little bit there is incredibly stupid. Incremental gains give you incremental results. There is a big difference between enacting laws that make you feel good about doing something, and enacting laws that truly make a difference. And speeches and long threads won’t get it done either.

  113. Gary Reger

    Every tax policy is a social policy.

    Our current tax structure for autos establishes an anti-green incentive. Sean has alluded to it, but it might be useful to lay it out explicitly.

    The dollar amount assessed per auto decreases every year as the vehicles depreciate. This decrease encourages residents to delay replacing an old car. Older vehicles pollute more and (generally) get worse mileage than newer cars — especially newer hybrids and 40+ mpg cars.

    Since we cannot fix this policy by, say, raising the mill rate on older vehicles or changing the depreciation schedules, we should correct our mistaken social policy by creating an incentive at the other end — an incentive to replace an older vehicle with a new, fuel-efficient one.

    On the matter of cost to the Town: the law could set a limit (say three years) for the tax break, taxes thereafter assessed on the current depreciated value; or the Council could simply order the Town Manager to report annually on the impact of the tax break on Town finances. Then annually the Council could reconsider if necessary.

    King is of course quite right that this measure will not make much difference. Climate change is a huge problem that needs to be addressed on a big scale. But —

    I think we need to align our tax policy with our social policy; there is no point in sending the wrong signal; and

    we should not underestimate the educational and social value of making a statement.

  114. eafinct

    I would like to hear more ideas in response to Rick Liftig’s comments above about better uses for our industrial and retailed zoned properties in the southeast. Can any creative taxation or zoning ideas come up which would penalize owners for purposely letting their properties lie unproductive — thus giving an incentive NOT to mothball them for tax write-offs?

    Light industrial use would be ideal. Are there any industries which currently depend on vendors at a distance, which could profitably be brought closer to home? Distribution or warehousing functions (such as Windsor is now pursuing)? We do have great access to I-84 and I-91. This might make business sense as fuel prices continue to rise. We should look at local firms in Hartford County to see where they source materials. Is there any business association or Chamber of Commerce group that works with such data?

  115. turtle

    My fantasy is that the kind of specialty lighting and hardware companies (like Rejuvenation) that all seem to be on the west coast would appear, or reappear, in the Hartford area. Maybe they do exist here and I’m not aware of them, or maybe Restoration Hardware has cornered the market, but I’d hope with all the old housing stock and disposable income in greater Hartford a few artisanal shops might thrive.

  116. Rick Liftig

    Turtle and all –

    Hopefully the great and powerful spam filter will let me through tonight! It’s probably just as well because I had written a long-winded reply.

    But, there is really no such thing as a tax write-off. Taxes need to be paid and basic maintenance needs to be done. Companies keep a property on the books for several reasons: 1) future consideration; 2) to prevent competition from moving into a vacant site (the Stop and Shop tactic) 3) Inertia (ie. a property is covering the expenses, but not making much more) – sort of like all of the times you sentimentally bought Connecticut Avenue (in Monopoly) and never made any money from it.

    That being said, every owner has a price. this is business after all. So the big question is – what carrot is big enough to attract a quality developer? WH Center was a big carrot for BBS. It had in place an affluent, educated community and had recovered and prospered after the mall boom.

    I’ve said it before, “Does the market drive development or is it the reverse?” IOW, if you build it will they come?

    Also, one of the biggest elephants in the room is the fact that Central Connecticut has not grown appreciably in the last 20 years. Much of West Hartford’s good fortune has come at the expense of Hartford. We are now the draw and not our capital city.

    So who has some good ideas? I was hoping for some good discourse from the candidates.

  117. Rick Liftig

    Our interesting town:

    Park Rd. has over 130 hair salons. I believe we have five CVS stores. At least five Dunkin Donuts. Three library branches. Countless coffee kiosks.

    Ergo, we are well-groomed and stay up too late reading (so we need the coffee the next day).

  118. Joe Visconti

    Rick

    If the market drove development then we would not have had to subsidize Blue Back.

  119. Jim Cerrata

    As a lifelong Republican I am disgusted by the Blue Back deal. The Repub’s that get are elected by the taxpayer citizens of west hartford better do something about it or they can kiss my vote goodbye. And my neighbors and kids feel all the same way too. Joe et al – I hope your hearing us!

    Jim Cerrata

  120. Rick: Your description fits perfectly with the dynamic of the town. And I have to ask – how many of the coffee Kiosks have WiFi?

    You’d think a cosmo town like WH would have a web listing of all the “free hot spots” in town.

    Since there isn’t a special forum for this – but its somewhat related to the concept of “green”. Has anyone else noticed that their neighbors are going nuts putting out their stored trash in the hopes of beating out Big Barrel Doomsday – Oct 1?

    Meanwhile the junk collectors are having a cash cow field day. And these folks deserve triple credit for 1) recycling WH trash (much of which is not really trash, and 2) knowing how to make profit through the use of the endless inventory, and 3) circulating some “good stuff” into communities that may not normally see some high end products. And believe me, the some of the stuff I see thrown away is not thrown out for being broken or worn, but simply because its out of style, or no longer wanted.

    Lastly, anyone else enjoying the Trash Barrel/Recycling show on WHCT with Dana H taking calls? These guys at least deserve credit for making good use of community TV to communicate the policy.

  121. Factored Denominator

    How about tax reduction on cars that consume communists? This avoids any use of natural gas.

    Although effective, this is obviously a sarcastic and unnecessary comment, almost as unnecessary as the tax reduction possibility for these cars.
    With the selection of “hybrid” and “fuel-efficient” cars widening as time progresses, it is still very limited at this time, and along with their high price tags, this could be seen as unfair to people with lesser amounts of money. Sounds like a tax break for snobby rich “enviro-friendly” folks to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s