Certainty Shmertainty

Just to recap a bit for those following at home: the state is currently running a $20 billion or so budget deficit. What to do about it has paralyzed Sacramento for, well, years, virtually guaranteeing that it will get worse.

Notice I said “virtually.” That’s because this Associated Press story says our esteemed lawmakers have begun “to address part” of our massive deficit. They’re doing this through a cumbersome change in gasoline taxes that will swap our current six percent sales tax on gas for a 17.3 cent excise tax. Doing this, the story notes, “is estimated to generate $1.1 billion for the general fund” while, hopefully, allowing continued funding for highway maintenance and public transit as well as “no difference in prices at the pump.”

Well, maybe not on that last part. See, according to a graph further down the story, “because the excise tax is a flat amount per gallon, drivers might not see as much savings when the cost of gas declines.”

While it’s funny to think that the price of gas might, someday, decline in a meaningful way, the fact that it’s impossible to say for certain what the bill will do for gas prices should give people pause. That’s why it’s ironic that one assemblyman, thrilled at the prospect of more money for buses, says the following:

“The one thing the bus riders want is certainty,” Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, is quoted as saying.

That’s all they want? Hell, we’ve had certainty for years — the certainty that comes from knowing elected politicians will always choose cheap parlor tricks and even cheaper rhetoric over substantial, structural changes.

-Anthony Pignataro

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