Carbon-Emissions Fee on Gasoline Might Tank Regional Economy, Conservative Think Tanks Say

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Members of several New England think tanks gathered Friday for a summit focused on one common goal:  their opposition to the Transportation Climate Initiative.

The proposed 12-state pact of New England and Mid-Atlantic states would impose fees on fuel providers based on their carbon emissions. This money would then go to expanding public transportation. For drivers, it would increase the price of gasoline by up to 17 cents per gallon.

The event, hosted by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, featured representatives from fiscally conservative organizations from all six New England states. The group met at the Hampshire House in Boston in the morning and afternoon, holding a press conference midday.

Chris Carlozzi, of the National Federation of Independent Business Massachusetts, said that the increased tax on gas and diesel would have an adverse impact on Massachusetts businesses.

“This will increase costs for small businesses and consumers,” Carlozzi said. “When you’re a small business owner oftentimes operating on razor-thin margins — whether you’re providing goods or a service — it increases costs at the end of the day and prices for consumers. If you’re transporting goods, that increases prices. That will leave businesses in Massachusetts at a serious disadvantage and that impacts jobs at the end of the day.”

Representatives at the event from the northern New England states Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine said the proposal would especially affect those who live in the rural parts of their states and typically drive longer distances.

Posik called the Transportation Climate Initiative a regressive tax. Other members of the summit agreed and explained further when asked by New Boston Post.

“Gasoline is an inelastic good,” Stenhouse explained. “If you raise the price, people still have to drive to work, sometimes long distances. It comes directly out of their budget and for low-income citizens, that’s a higher percentage of their income. Because of that, they’ll be forced to cut something else out of their budget because they can’t buy less.”

Rob Roper of the Ethan Allen Institute in Vermont agreed, noting that with the high cost of real estate in many high-population areas, middle class and working-class Americans may have longer commutes.

Additionally, he noted that the Vermont AFL-CIO, which represents organized labor, opposes the proposed carbon-emissions feem, as VT Digger confirms.

“They’re not ideologically opposed to taxes that would fund greenhouse gas emission. They’re on board with a Green New Deal for Vermont,” Roper said, distinguishing one anti-climate-change proposal from the gasoline fee, “but even they see it as a very unfair regressive tax that hurts workers.”

When asked if MassFiscal would support an alternative to the Transportation Climate Initiative with similar goals, spokesman Paul Craney said his organization would not.

Rather, Craney stated that Massachusetts ranks 48th among the 50 states in spending efficiency on roads, as the Reason Foundation confirms. He said cutting administrative costs and maximizing efficiency there would provide the state with additional funding for public transit without increasing taxes.

Other attendees at the event Friday, January 17 included Greg Moore of Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire; Jacob Posik of the Maine Heritage Policy Center; Mike Stenhouse of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity; and Elisabeth Kines and Louise DiCocco of the Yankee Institute in Connecticut.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, are the only two governors in New England who are in favor of the carbon-emissions fee on gasoline. Baker’s aides say the governor has the authority to implement a carbon-emissions fee in Massachusetts without further approval by the state Legislature, thanks to a law enacted in 2007.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, in December came against the proposal in clear terms, shortly after the cost estimate of up to 17 cents a gallon was released. Among those expressing opposition recently have been Vermont Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat.

In Maine, Democratic Governor Janet Mills has sounded unenthusiastic about the proposal.