The Governor Needs To Get Behind The Wheel More

Published 7:59 am Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Governor McDonnell supports instituting an annual fee-a tax, a fine, take your pick-for motorists who safely and legally purchase an alternative fuel vehicle.

But he wants to reduce the fine passed by the General Assembly on motorists who break the law and endanger us all by texting while they drive.

I don't get it.

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On Saturday afternoon my wife and I were driving to church in her hybrid. Rounding a blind curve on our secondary road we narrowly avoided a head-on collision with someone who was looking down at something in her hand or lap, apparently, and never even saw us, never looked up, as her car entered our half of the road.

Who deserves a fine? My wife for buying a hybrid or the woman for driving recklessly and nearly killing us?

Why create a tax on law-abiding motorists while seeking to reduce the fine on those who break the law on our highways, and do so in a reckless fashion?

How can both ideas come from the same brain? And a brain belonging to a conservative Republican.

Governor McDonnell seems to be driving on the wrong side of the road, but then he doesn't get out behind the wheel much anymore as governor, flying in helicopters and being driven, instead of driving, around the Commonwealth.

So perhaps he has forgotten that the greater public good would be served by encouraging, rather than penalizing, Virginians for purchasing hybrid vehicles that benefit the environment and help our nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

Likewise, the greater public good would be served by preserving, or increasing, in fact, the fines created by the General Assembly, which finally voted to make texting behind the wheel a primary traffic offense-police can pull us over for texting without having to catch us doing something else first.

Public safety is not promoted by reducing the new fine on texting while driving a gasoline-filled piece of metal 60 miles an hour, or more, on roads filled with other gasoline-filled pieces of metal going equally as fast.

If a Democrat was in the governor's mansion and sought to create a new annual fee on those who purchase and drive a certain type of car, I can easily imagine McDonnell railing against such a tax-happy liberal.

The General Assembly approved new primary offense fines that do not need reducing-$250 for the first violation and $500 for any subsequent offense. The legislature also set a mandatory minimum $500 fine for any motorist convicted of reckless driving if that individual was texting at the time of the reckless driving arrest.

The governor does not need to reduce those fines as an amendment to send down to the legislature on the one-day reconvened session, also known as Veto Day, in Richmond today (Wednesday, April 3).

But he should, though he won't, eliminate the annual fee, tax, fine, penalty on hybrid vehicles.

Governor McDonnell's explanation on supporting the penalty, fine, tax, annual fee-which he is proposing to reduce from $100 to $64 a year-is to ensure that drivers of alternative vehicles are paying “their fair share for the road maintenance and wear and tear caused by their vehicles. The original proposal of a $100 fee was based on a 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax,” the governor's office explained. The General Assembly's budget conference committee established a lower rate of taxation, McDonnell's office states, and “as such, this amendment ensures equity in how different types of vehicle fuels are taxed.”

No, it does not do that at all.

The definition of equity is “the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality; the equity of Solomon. Synonyms: disinterest, equitableness, impartiality, fair-mindedness, fairness, justness, evenhandedness, objectivity; justice, probity. Antonyms: bias, discrimination, inequity, injustice, partiality, partisanship, prejudice, unfairness, unreasonableness; injustice.”

Clearly, there is no evenhandedness, fairness or any other quality associated with equity in making one person pay a new annual fee, tax, fine, penalty for driving a car that positively affects the environment and not making their next door neighbor pay the same new annual fee, tax, fine, penalty for driving a car that negatively affects the environment.

Not unless Governor McDonnell believes non-smokers should also be forced to pay an annual fee, tax, fine, or penalty for positively affecting the environment, while letting cigarette smokers, because they pay a tobacco tax, avoid the annual fee, tax, fine or penalty.

No, the governor's thinking on texting fines and hybrid vehicle fines doesn't make sense to me at all.

Looking the antonyms of “equity,” it certainly strikes me that drivers of alternative vehicles are being discriminated against with this special driving tax, a clear injustice.

So with this precedent-this is not simply an issue that deserves the attention of hybrid car owners-what might be coming down the road next, texting some new fee, tax, fine or penalty for being nothing more than a law-abiding citizen?

Get out and get behind the wheel, governor. There's traffic ahead.