Social Engineering, Beta Version

Recently Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross has reportedly suggested using the sales tax now collected on gasoline and diesel fuel to subsidize mass transit.

Maybe that makes as much sense as using that sales tax on health care or other general state government expenditures (as is the case now), but it reminds me of how the people who drafted the original Regional Transportation Authority law really wanted to punish car drivers.

They put it another way.

Taxing people for the gasoline they used and where people parked their cars in the city would encourage them to take trains and buses.

These Chicago-centric social engineers had no clue that most people in the Chicago metropolitan area could not take trains and buses to work if they wanted to.

That meant the gas and parking taxes were simply punishments to be meted out by the allies the social engineers figured would be appointed to the RTA Board.

Let’s set aside the fact that Illinois is one of very few states that levies both a motor fuel tax and, then, applies a sales tax on the cost of the fuel, plus the motor fuel taxes, state and federal.

Let’s ask if Cross is so young that he doesn’t remember the RTA gas tax. It was a 5% sales tax on gasoline and the tax on gasoline, federal and state.

RTA was barely enacted (less than a 2,000 vote margin with paper ballots) by referendum in 1974 while I was a freshman state representative.

The opposition was so strong to the gas tax that it wasn’t until a financial “emergency” that the Board approved the authorized 5 percent gas tax. It was in Woodstock at its one and only meeting held in McHenry County. (Naturally, McHenry County residents demonstrated, protest signs and all. The RTA Board never returned to McHenry County. Naturally, none of the board members or staff took the train.)

Now, word filters out that John Filan, Governor Rod Blagojevich’s ex-budget guy, now “Chief Operating Officer,” favors taxing every parking space in the six-county area to subsidize the Regional Transportation Authority.

Guess what?

That idea has been tried and found wanting, too.

Such a tax was imposed on commercial parking lots, but repealed after Downtown Chicago businesses figured out that they didn’t need another disincentive for suburban shoppers.

During 1974, I thought my colleague State Rep. Don Deuster (R-Mundelien) went over the top by claiming that the RTA Act would allow the taxation of church parking lots.

Maybe he was just 33 years ahead of his time.

No, I’m wrong.

Churches would be exempted under Filan’s proposal.

It would tax every commercial parking space, whether free to the customer or not.

Get ready for grocery prices and prices of everything else you drive to buy to increase.

Regardless of what failed in the first ten years of RTA’s history, today’s politicians are doing their very best to recreate that past.

Enrage those who cannot tax mass transit by forcing them to subsidize those who are fortunate enough to be able to do so.

What will be the result?

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