Keep Letting Other Guy Do the Paying
State officials in Virginia seem to have figured out a way to pay for road improvements in that state: Stick it to North Carolinians.
North Carolina officials, in turn, are now considering a brilliant idea to pay for road improvements here: Stick it to Virginians.
Why didn’t they think of this stuff before?
It seems that the Federal Highway Administration has given Virginia permission to charge tolls on Interstate 95. Within a few months, lucky North Carolina motorists traveling north along the Interstate will no doubt encounter toll booths, or some variation thereof, just across the border.
Virginia officials say the tolls could generate $50 million a year.
Meanwhile, North Carolina transportation officials expect to complete a two-year study of the interstate by the end of the year, and they now have a request to the feds seeking approval to toll the road.
Within a couple of years, Virginia motorists can probably look forward to paying a toll soon after crossing into North Carolina along the interstate.
And rural residents living north of Roanoke Rapids and south of Emporia, Va., will eagerly await their rural roads becoming heavily traveled, toll-evasion zones.
Who ever would have believed that filling tax coffers could be this easy? Perhaps this new way of making the other guy pay could spark of government revenue revolution.
Here are a just a few ideas that come to mind:
— Let’s also toll the Intercoastal Waterway, with one giant toll arm crossing the boating channel at Knotts Island just below the Virginia border and another across the channel near Sunset Beach above the South Carolina border. Boats manufactured in North Carolina will get a discount.
— Legislators could add a special tax for out-of-state residents who buy tickets for sporting events. Besides raising additional revenue for the state, this new tax would have the added benefit of reducing out-of-state demand for tickets to the ACC tournament when held in this state, meaning more tickets for North Carolina residents.
— State parks could charge more for out-of-state residents to use camping facilities; state museums could charge higher admission prices for out-of-state residents to see exhibits. As part of this change, state tourism officials could adopt a new ad campaign, with a fetching theme: Our beauty is so awesome, you should and will pay more.
— The revenue revolution wouldn’t have to stop at state government. Local government could get in on the act too. Why not a separate, higher property tax rate for out-of-state residents who own vacation property here? If nothing else, this additional tax would be another way to stick it to those Virginians buying up beach homes along the northern Outer Banks.
Raising revenue in this manner does present the problem that our success, just like in the case of Virginia’s, is sure to be emulated by some conniving, North Carolina wannabes.
But why should government officials care? It’s only the people who will have to pay.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
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