Posted on | April 7, 2017 | 1 Comment
Health policy experts generally agree that applying taxes to unhealthy products or behaviors can reliably deliver public health benefits. We have learned from the nation’s battle with tobacco that taxes not only discourage consumption but also provide funding for beneficial programs like public health education. In some states and locales, this approach has been embraced as well in the battle against obesity through the use of soda taxes.
California extended healthy taxation within another domain this week – energy. They successfully approved new taxes on gasoline. That action will likely dampen use of carbon creating fuels, accelerate use of high mileage and electric vehicles, and in funding much needed infrastructure for bridge and road repairs decrease injuries related to motor vehicle accidents.
This latest action signals that California, the world’s 8th largest economy at $2.5 trillion Gross State Product, is not waiting around for Congress or Trump’s America to catch up. They have no interest in facilitating his immigration policies or wasting money building walls. Last week, they took the serious step in the early exploration of a single payer health program that would cover all citizens, including documented and undocumented immigrants. And now, they’ve decided to not wait around for the Administration to follow-through on promises of a “huge “ infrastructure bill.
Why should they? Their economy is nearly the size of Brazil (#7 worldwide), and is fueled by record tourism in the south, premier high-tech leadership in the north, and agriculture throughout. Their governor, Jerry Brown, is experienced, progressive, inventive and committed. He’s a grown-up in every way, and has his priorities straight.
Under his care this week, the legislature approved $5.2 billion in gas taxes and vehicle fees by gaining the required 2/3 majority in both the House and Senate state bodies.
In garnering support, the governor focused on the $130 billion in priority repairs and planned new construction on the books that had been accumulating since the last gas tax hike 23 years ago. Brown’s message was simple. direct, and honest: “The Democratic Party is the party of doing things, and tonight we did something to fix the roads of California.”
As we approach the third month of President Trump’s tenure, two things are clear – chaos is not the same as leadership, and the kind of progress we’re seeing in California can fuel growth, optimism and good health. Other states should follow their example.