Bridge Views

"Sometimes, it’s hard to find anything to love about my old beater of a car.Its windshield leaks. It burns almost as much oil as gas. Its shock absorbers absorbed their last shocks about three years ago, and its radio can barely squeeze enough volume to drown out the sound of its own clacking rods.But all this talk about Initiative 695 — you know, the tax-cutting initiative — led me to find something downright endearing about the old beast.It’s cheap. And if more people find out just how cheap their cars really are, I wonder how far this particular bit of legislative drivel will get at the polls.My case in point: The Beater, a 1989-vintage Mercury Tracer.For the privilege of driving it with an actual license tag attached to the back this year, the state charged me a grand total of $71.35.“Ouch!’’ I said. That’s pretty steep for an old bucket of bolts. I’m not sure the glue factory would give me that much for it.Then I looked a little closer.Initiative 695, for those of you who have paid no attention so far, would cut the state’s Motor Vehicle Excise Tax to a flat $30 per vehicle, thus sucking millions of dollars out of government services, but presumably saving all of us big pots of money. A great deal for me and my Tracer, you might say? Well, not exactly. It seems that $26.35 of that big fee is for something mysteriously labelled “other,’’ which won’t be affected by I-695 at all. And another $3 was tacked on just for the privilege of filing the fees. That leaves the $42 I actually paid in Motor Vehicle Excise Tax for the right to drive my little car this year.That also means I’ll save a whopping $12 bucks if I-695 passes.Gee: What do I get for my 12 bucks now? Well ... I can catch a free bus if and when the little beast breaks down. That means I can still get to work without hoofing it; I can still get to the store to spend my paycheck; and, if I work hard enough, I can afford a better car and probably the tax that goes along with it ...But the bus will go away if I-695 saves me 12 bucks.So will a good portion of the highway repairs that give me a road to drive on, along with all the high-priced SUVs and BMWs that take up too much lane space.So will some of the police who patrol those roads.So will God knows what else. My county commissioners tell me they’ll be even less willing if I-695 passes to build a juvenile lockup for the little punks who might boost the stereo out of my wife’s SUV someday, because the county will be less likely to get money from the state if the state is starving for Motor Vehicle Excise Tax money.That leaves me with 12 bucks, of course. And a neighborhood full of punks who can listen to fine music while they drive bad roads.Given the tradeoffs, I think I’ll keep my cheap beater and leave that particular sucker’s deal on the table. Along with my 12 bucks.David Fisher is editor of the News-Times. He is also too cheap to buy a new car."

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