The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on September 30 used a loophole to uphold the legality of Massachusetts Turnpike toll road rates that discriminate against most out-of-state drivers. Those participating in the “Fast Lane” program, almost always residents of Massachusetts, receive a 25 cent discount on Allston-Brighton tolls and a 50 cent discount at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels. Regular commuters would save between $250 and $500 a year.
In July, a three-judge panel of the appellate division of the Superior Court of California in Orange County ruled that red light camera tickets issued at certain intersections in Santa Ana were invalid because the city failed to provide legally required notice. The case was certified for publication, and last month the cities of Santa Ana and West Hollywood petitioned the state supreme court to undo this certification, which is extremely rare for photo ticketing programs. Unpublished cases cannot be cited as precedent in California, and motorists interested in challenging citations will have to repeat from scratch all arguments about the program’s illegality.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s investigation of the Jefferson Parish payroll wrapped up Wednesday, revealing that the parish’s red light camera program was at the center of a scandal that drew the interest of federal investigators. Auditors concluded that former parish President Aaron Broussard and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson likely violated payroll fraud statutes.
The police chief in Oak Ridge, Tennessee received an all-expense paid vacation in Arizona, while collecting his on-duty salary, in return for his providing testimony that helped save Redflex Traffic Systems from paying millions in possible damages. The Australian firm came under fire after it was caught falsely claiming on customs forms that the radar units it had imported were certified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). From 1998 to 2008, every time Redflex turned on a mobile photo radar unit, it violated federal law. When a rival firm, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), discovered this fact, it blew the whistle in a federal court case, the first round of which wrapped up in the spring.
The Grand Terrace, California city council on Tuesday reluctantly voted to pay Redflex Traffic Systems $72,203.75 after the Australian company threatened to impose a $27,500 late fee on the city if it did not pay up immediately. Redflex operates the red light camera program at two intersections, and as of July 1 the company had mailed out 4283 fines worth $446 each. While Grand Terrace officials expected that the system would be a money-maker, the program to date has only enriched the county, the state, the courts and Redflex, which insisted on the additional cash payment.
The Michigan state House of Representatives yesterday voted unanimously to repeal its so-called driver responsibility fee program, an unpopular tax on traffic citations. State Representative Bettie C. Scott (D-Detroit) was the primary sponsor of legislation that will end most of the fees by January 1, 2012 and, before then, cut the amount motorists owe by half.
“Obviously we must do what it takes to keep our roads safe for all travelers, but driver responsibility fees place an onerous and unnecessary financial burden on too many Michigan drivers,” Scott said in a statement. “The Driver Responsibility Act is flawed legislation that has failed the test of time. It has unfairly penalized our hard-working residents during one of the worst financial crises we’ve ever seen.”
Meter maids employed by a for-profit, foreign company are confronting motorists and seizing disabled parking permits at the direction of the city of West Hollywood, California. Earlier this month, officials announced a “crack down” on the abuse of restricted-use parking spaces by having meter maids determine whether the users of disabled parking permits are legitimately handicapped.
“Under a program initiated by the city of West Hollywood’s Parking Division, drivers displaying disabled placards may be randomly approached to provide proof of placard ownership,” a city press release explained. “Failure to provide the required identification card will result in the confiscation of the disabled placard and a parking citation for misuse, which carries a $500 fine.”
Digging through the finances of a company as large as GM is never an easy task, especially when the balance book in question was recently wiped clean in a bailout-bankruptcy. Luckily, Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Weil has the chops to do the task justice, and he’s come up with a fascinating insight: through the power of an accounting tool known as “Goodwill,” Weil claims that GM has juiced its assets and liabilities during its “fresh start.” He notes with TTACian zeal:
It’s as if a $30.2 billion asset suddenly materialized out of thin air. In the upside-down world that is GM’s balance sheet, that’s exactly what happened.
The short version: GM undervalued some assets and overvalued some liabilities during its “fresh start.” The scary result: improvement in GM’s performance and creditworthiness could actually lead to writedowns on its Goodwill… which is currently The General’s largest non-current asset. Oh yes, and without that $30.2b in Goodwill, GM would have about an equity value of -$6.3b. Welcome to the new General Motors…
In less than three years, officials in New South Wales, Australia have been forced to refund 18,944 faulty or illegally issued speed camera citations. Between July 2007 and May 2010, the state government has returned A$3,788,885 worth of citations issued by automated ticketing machines that were not operating properly, according to freedom of information documents obtained by the NSW Liberal Party, which used the figures to attack the party in power.
Fighting speed camera and red light camera tickets in federal court is becoming increasingly difficult as yet another US district court judge yesterday embraced the use of automated ticketing machines. Judge Nanette K. Laughrey dismissed the class action lawsuit that Gregory Mills had filed against the city of Springfield and Lasercraft, a private vendor that has since been bought out by American Traffic Solutions. Mills argued that because the Missouri Supreme Court in March struck down the city’s program as illegal ( view decision), those who received tickets were entitled to a refund.
The citizen-led groups that want the public to decide the future of red light cameras are racist, according to lawsuits filed by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) in a pair of Texas cities. The Arizona-based photo enforcement firm filed in a state court in Baytown on Thursday and then an ATS-funded front group filed an identical case in a federal court in Houston on Friday. Residents in both cities signed petitions placing a ban on automated ticketing machines onto the November 2 ballot, but ATS cites the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a reason to block these votes.
A team of experienced class action lawyers is taking on California’s red light camera industry, and photo enforcement companies are expressing unease. Last month, the law firm of Pearson Simon Warshaw and Penny, LLP filed suit in San Mateo County Superior Court arguing that tickets issued throughout the Golden State since January 1, 2004 should be refunded where the photo enforcement contracts violated a state law mandating flat-rate compensation to companies like Redflex Traffic Systems. Redflex referred to the case as a particular business risk in an August 25 filing with the Australian Securities Exchange.
The California state Senate last week gave preliminary approval to legislation giving local governments the green light to install automated ticketing machines on street sweepers to generate parking tickets. The measure, introduced by state Assemblyman Steven C. Bradford (D-Gardena), passed in the lower chamber in April by a 49 to 24 vote. It would go to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) upon a final vote by the Senate and an Assembly vote to approving the upper chamber’s amendments. On Friday, the full legislature sent a related measure cracking down on municipalities that have been using an unauthorized civil fine system to bypass state traffic laws for speeding and red light camera tickets.
The California state Senate on Wednesday voted 63-11 to give final approval to a measure that will cut the fine for the most common type of red light camera violation in half. Under existing law, motorists who make safe, rolling right-hand turns at monitored intersections may receive a $500 bill in the mail from a private company operating on behalf of a municipality. In the past few years, the “California stop” at some locations have begun to account for up to 98 percent of automated ticketing machine citations.
In December 2008, the city of Chicago, Illinois leased for 75 years its 36,000-space parking meter system to Chicago Parking Meters LLC. This firm, which is owned primarily by Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, made a one-time, $1.16 billion up-front payment for the right to collect meter revenue for the life of the deal. By next year, Mayor Richard M. Daley will have spent the entire payment shoring up the budgets for 2010 and 2011.
The city of Mukilteo, Washington filed papers Monday hoping to thwart the attempt of a traffic camera company to deny residents the chance to vote on banning automated enforcement. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael T. Downes on Friday will hear arguments in the case filed by an American Traffic Solutions (ATS)-funded front group to protect the company’s ticketing contract from the fate such agreements have shared in all ten cities where the public has forced a vote to toss out the cameras. The sponsors of Mukilteo’s initiative — Nicholas Sherwood, Alex Rion and Tim Eyman — filed a more comprehensive legal brief as intervenors tearing apart the ATS-backed case.
Red light cameras are becoming less popular among municipal leaders in California. On Monday, the Yucaipa city council voted unanimously to cancel its photo enforcement contract with Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia. The previous week, Costa Mesa officially pulled the plug on its automated ticketing machines.
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is struggling in his latest budget with the desire to spend more money while lacking tax revenue due to the economic recession. Nonetheless, the $28 billion budget for 2011 expends $200 million more than the previous year. Rendell yesterday testified before the state Senate Transportation Committee about how he intended to hit up motorists to make up much of that amount.
“If you did the increase in fees for inflation and the four cents at the pump — again, I think my idea is the best idea — but if you did that, you’ve got almost $100 million more,” Rendell testified. “If you did the InsureNet — that’s the plan with the cameras — the state would generate $75 million more.”
Toyota’s having some pretty rotten luck recently. First was “acceler-gate”, the mass hysteria of how Toyota cars were going out of control and murdering innocent people. Then came stories of people blaming Toyota cars for accidents, when in reality it was the driver’s fault (or in the case of Jim Sikes, a scam). You would have thought this would pour oil over troubled waters for Toyota, right? Nope. The malaise continued. Then came the public humiliation of the senate hearings. Did anybody in the media point out the conflict of interest for the senate? Well, if they did, nobody listened. So, while Toyota is fire fighting in North America and is having a bit of a rough time in Europe, at least things are OK in Australia. A market where Toyota dominated for 5 years. Well…
As much as it pains me to admit it, Ford is a company to be admired. When bailouts were handed around like doobies in the Summer of Love, they didn’t partake (argue that point amongst yourselves, but you know what I mean). Their cars are interesting (to say the least) and their reliability is now being thought of in the same vein as Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. All of this is down to one man, Mr Alan “I bet you wish to made me CEO now! Eh, Boeing?!” Mulally. He put forward a vision of Ford divisions and subsidiaries working together to create a global product. He pared down the extraneous brands. He put the axe to Mercury and he didn’t need a bankruptcy to do it. In short, Mr Mulally has done well at Ford. The question is how well?
On Wednesday, June 9 2010, the German government will decide whether they’ll grant Opel live support. Or whether Berlin gives Opel a pat on the head and best wishes for their future endeavors. That’s the current plan, says Die Zeit, based on reports by the German wire service DPA. Plans can change, as they did in the past.
It looks grim for Opel.
The South Carolina House of Representatives voted Thursday to make the state’s ban on photo radar explicit. In 2006, the office of the attorney general issued an opinion stating automated ticketing conflicted with state law, but Ridgeland officials decided to ignore the ruling and operate a speed camera van on Interstate 95. The town of 2500 wants to deploy cameras to ticket out-of-state drivers as they pass through the seven-mile stretch within the town’s limits.
The race for the Republican nomination for Alabama governor grew heated last week as a leading candidate faced questions over his involvement in a toll road deal. Tim James, 48, is running for the nod as a leading businessman and the son of former Governor Fob James, Jr. His opponent, Bradley Byrne, 55, is a former state senator and chancellor of the Alabama College System. Byrne and James traded verbal blows over the Foley Beach Express, a 13.5-mile four-lane route from the city of Foley to Orange Beach meant to bypass the congested Highway 59 for those willing to pay a $3.50 toll.
As Americans have noted, bailouts can get costly. Europe has just decided on a trillion dollar bailout for their southern European deadbeats member states. Who’s going to pay for all that? In Germany, raising taxes is taboo (for the moment.) Lowering taxes had been one of the wedding vows of the ruling coalition. They didn’t say exactly when, but raising taxes would be politically – not very smart. So how else to raise money? Where else than from our darling piggy bank, the hapless motorist.
The Detroit News, by some regarded as the in-house organ of GM, has issues with GM. The DetN doesn’t like GM’s latest TV ad (“some future models shown”) in which Ed Whitacre proclaims that GM paid back its “loan, in full, with interest, years ahead of schedule.”
The “GM ad glosses over the reality” complains the headline of the article in which the former unofficial organ of GM rips Whitacre a new one. Says the DetN: “He’s technically correct because he clearly uses the word “loan.” Otherwise vague? Yes. Misleading? Depends on your perspective.”
Then, the sky is falling once again.
Three California city councils debated whether to keep or discard red light cameras last week. In Loma Linda officials on Tuesday voted to drop automated enforcement while South San Francisco officials voted to keep it on Wednesday. The debates followed in the wake of a decision by the city of San Carlos last Monday to drop cameras after the duration of the yellow light at the camera-enforced intersection was extended by one second, eliminating the system’s profitability.
US District Court Judge James B. Zagel on Wednesday unsealed documents filed in the case against former Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich (D). The 91-page document lays out in greater detail the evidence in the prosecution’s corruption case against a man charged with using his office to line his own pockets. One of the central money-making schemes alleged is a multi-billion deal to install High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes inside an existing toll road. Blagojevich announced the program in 2008.
Voters in California’s tenth largest city will have an opportunity to ban red light cameras in November. On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council unanimously endorsed the idea of placing a charter amendment on the ballot that, if approved by the public, would ensure that automated ticketing machines never appear on city streets. Mayor Curt Pringle, a former speaker of the California State Assembly, offered the measure even though his city has never used cameras.
Citizen activists are looking to ban red light cameras and speed cameras in Maryland, Ohio and Texas. Petition drives are under way in six cities with the goal of offering local residents the opportunity to vote in the next election on whether automated ticketing should continue or not. Already, one of these efforts has succeeded.
Well, our questions have been answered, and the first US-market pure electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, will be sold well under its Japanese-market price of $38k-$44k, coming in at $32,780. After a $7,500 federal tax break that brings the price to $25,280, and a California and Georgia tax break of another $5,000 will bring it within spitting distance of $20k (a $1,500 credit is available in Oregon). Full Nissan release after the jump.
Money-wise, the United States is in a bit of a tough spot. Must create revenue wherever it can. From red light cameras to shaking down foreign companies. On Tuesday, Germany’s Daimler AG was charged with violating U.S. bribery laws “by showering foreign officials with millions of dollars and gifts of luxury cars to win business deals,” as Reuters has it. After asking “how much will it take for this to go away?” Daimler plans to pay $185m to settle charges by the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.
Last November, Dutch lawmakers approved the first “pay-as-you-drive” tax system in Europe. A GPS gizmo, promptly dubbed “Spionagekastje” (“spy box,”) by the Dutch, was supposed to record where and when people would drive in the land of cheese, tulips, and koffie shops. With the information collected by the mandatory kastje, the Dutch government intended to fleece its motorized citizenry according to distance driven, along with size and engine of the car. That concept immediately launched a discussion in Europe whether other countries should be given the same Dutch treat. The Netherlands won’t be setting a trend in that matter. Dearly beloved, the Spionagekastje is dead.
Faced with a $120 million budget deficit, West Virginia lawmakers are turning to school buses to bring in desperately needed revenue. The House of Delegates voted 98-0 Saturday to give final approval to House Bill 4223 which allows county school boards to deploy buses to issue $500 automated tickets. The proposal becomes law with the signature of Governor Joe Manchin (D).
“Every county board of education is hereby authorized to mount a camera on any school bus for the purpose of enforcing this section or for any other lawful purpose,” House Bill 4223 states.
Red light camera refunds will now reach $3.1 million in the city of South San Francisco, California. City officials decided this week that it had no choice but to refund tickets issued between January 28 and March 10 after being confronted by potential lawsuits over the city’s failure to abide by state law.
In January, the city admitted that every photo ticket that American Traffic Solutions (ATS) issued on its behalf between August 2009 and January 28, 2010 was invalid because the city council failed to ratify the contract. The council agreed to refund the tickets, nearly 3000 worth $446 each, and pay for the traffic schools motorists were forced to take. While generous, this move was not enough.
For the first time, monthly car sales in India exceeded 150,000 units according to February numbers released by SIAM, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers [via The Economic Times of India]. Those figures represent a 33% improvement over Feb. 2009. Analysts attribute the sales bump to people pulling the trigger in advance of expected higher taxes in the national budget. Indian automakers anticipate that the increased demand will slow as prices rise due to higher interest rates and new emissions standards.
A federally funded ticketing blitz in the state of Virginia landed a total of 6996 traffic tickets this weekend. The blitz, dubbed “Operation Air, Land & Speed” coincided with frantic efforts by state officials to close a$2.2 billion budget deficit. Supervisors ordered state troopers to saturate Interstates 81 and 95 to issue as many tickets as humanly possible over the space of two days.
The industries that profit from photo enforcement are scrambling to convince Florida lawmakers to adopt legislation that will forgive municipalities for installing red light cameras contrary to existing state law. A circuit court judge last week ruled that red light cameras were illegal in the state, following the legal argument presented in a 2005 attorney general opinion. On the day the decision was handed down, an insurance and camera company-backed front group headed by Melissa Wandall, the widow of an accident victim, released new polling data intended to jump-start the legislative effort.
Avondale, Arizona last week decided to terminate its contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for the operation of red light cameras and speed cameras. The city council made its decision primarily on financial grounds after the program failed to deliver on its promise of enhanced safety and substantial profit. With Avondale facing a $3.8 million budget deficit, officials decided the cameras had to go.
Diesel drivetrains have long been a crucial component to the European market’s forbidden-fruit appeal for American enthusiasts, ranking right up with station wagons and manual transmissions on the list of under-offered features in the American market. But there are signs now that Europe’s longtime infatuation with oil-burners might be drawing to a close (and not just for biodiesel). The Telegraph reports that Europe-wide diesel market share has fallen from 52 percent to 46 percent in the last 12 months, with the UK’s share dropping from about 43 percent to about 41 percent. Much of this trend is being driven by growth in the low-cost car segment, where the higher cost of diesels make them less competitive. Fears of higher repair costs for more complicated clean-diesel drivetrains and a relative undersupply of diesel fuel aren’t helping either. And just as diesel is faltering in its most important consumer market, the EU is eying a tax increase that Reuters UK says “could boost demand for gasoline at the expense of diesel.”
Europe, and especially Germany, reports declining diesel dependency. From a nearly 50 percent share a few years ago, the share of diesel driven cars in Germany dropped to 31 percent in 2009. Two reasons: The favorable taxation of the oil had been scrapped. And speaking of scrapped, the “Abwrackprämie, or cash for clunkers, had favored a trend towards low displacement gasoline burners. (In January, the diesel share climbed back to 40 percent in Deutschland.) Badly mauled were the manufacturers of bio (a.k.a. “veggie”) diesel.
A US District Court judge on Monday in effect told the two largest photo enforcement firms that they need to act more like grown-ups. In November 2008, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) filed suit against its Australian competitor, Redflex Traffic Systems, alleging that the company won Arizona’s statewide photo radar contract by lying in bid proposals regarding the use of radar units not certified by the Federal Communications Commission. US District Court Judge Frederick J. Marton decided in August that the suit had merit and should proceed to trial ( view decision), but he showed signs of fatigue when faced with eleven separate motions and other items requiring judicial disposition Monday.
British officials are making plans to impose a tax on speeding and parking citations this year in an effort to raise money to cover a growing budget deficit. Secretary of State for Justice Claire Ward announced the plan in a written answer to a question posed by Member of Parliament Greg Knight. The new revenue would be labeled as a “victims’ surcharge.”
The Judiciary Committee of the Michigan House of Representatives is expected this week to consider repealing the state’s Driver Responsibility Act (DRA). Since 2004, Michigan has used this law to impose a tax of $300 to $2000 on certain driving offenses, plus an annual tax of $100 to $500 a year for anyone with more than seven points on his license. State Representative Bettie Cook Scott (D-Detroit) introduced a bill that would repeal the this law by the end of the year. “The DRA is not a law to promote justice and safety on the roads,” Scott testified in an earlier hearing on her bill. “It’s a law that generates money… If the industrial and manufacturing revenues to the state have dropped, the state should not shift the loss of revenue on to its lowest wage earners. It must focus on attracting and creating new business that can create revenue.”
Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell (D) has not given up on his dream of adding toll booths on Interstate 80, a freeway that serves as a vital commercial link between New York and Chicago. On October 30, state officials filed an official memorandum to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reopening the application for permission to toll the 311 mile route in order to help balance the state’s budget. “Without tolls on I-80, state lawmakers and the administration would have to plug a $473 million gap in next year’s budget, and that gap will steadily widen,” Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chief Executive Joe Brimmeier said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal rips the veil off of General Motor’s true identity, revealing Government Motors in all its ignominious glory [sic]. The piece lists numerous examples of political interference with the automaker’s business, each worse than the one before. “Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota persuaded GM to rescind a closure order for a large dealership in Bloomington, Minn. In Tucson, Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords did the same for Don Mackey, owner of a longstanding Cadillac dealership with 80 employees. Rep. Giffords argues it made sense, even for GM, to keep the Mackey dealership, which sold 750 cars last year. ‘All I did was to help get GM to focus on his case,’ she says.” So that’s alright then? In America, politicians own you! “Lawmakers say it’s their obligation to guard the government’s investments, ensure that bailed-out firms are working in the country’s interests and protect their constituents.” Swallow blood pressure meds, continue . . .
Despite the billions in federal and state taxpayer dollars poured into mass transit programs, only 6,908,323 working Americans take advantage of the subsidized service, according to US Census Bureau data released yesterday. The agency’s American Community Survey, a questionnaire mailed to three million households, found that 121,248,284 workers over the age of 16 regularly commuted to work by personal automobile or carpool last year. Despite the comparatively small number served by buses, subways and rail, the Obama Administration has made expanding mass transit a top priority. “President Obama’s vision of robust, high-speed rail service offers Americans the kind of travel options that throughout our history have contributed to economic growth and enhanced quality of life,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in April. “We simply can’t build the economy of the future on the transportation networks of the past.”
Officials are looking to convince residents in the Washington, DC metropolitan region that converting even local streets into toll roads would be good for them. The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board last Wednesday voted to seek federal gas tax funds to bankroll a $400,000 study on how best to sell the public on a controversial per-mile tax proposal that would raise up to $4.8 billion in new revenue.
London, England Mayor Boris Johnson is retreating from his campaign pledge to end the city’s “punishment of motorists.” Johnson’s predecessor, Ken Livingstone, lost his re-election in large measure because Johnson pledged to scale back the £8 (US $13) fee imposed on motorists entering the downtown area. Johnson announced Friday that he will boost the tax to £10 (US $16.40) to shore up Transport for London’s mass transit budget. “The proposed increase in the charge will ensure that the system remains effective in controlling traffic levels in central London, and the revenue will also help us fund the vital improvements to London’s transport network that all Londoners want to see,” Johnson said in a statement.
A recently released study concludes that Pennsylvania’s plan to toll Interstate 80 would burden taxpayers and potentially cost thousands of jobs. Grove City College economics Professor Tracy C. Miller’s analysis extended beyond the simple issue of how much money such tolling would raise for government coffers and, instead, attempted to quantify the effect of increased transportation costs on local businesses and residents. I-80 runs 311 miles across the state, serving as a vital commercial link between New York and Chicago. Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell (D) has been promoting the tolling effort in the hopes of generating $405 million in new revenue. Rendell and others refer to the toll as a “user fee,” but Miller disagreed with this characterization. “It is better understood as a tax or tariff, since much of the revenue will be used for purposes other than maintaining and improving Interstate 80 and since vehicles that use Interstate 80 already pay for using it via fuel taxes and other taxes,” Miller wrote.
A UK government group has just released a proposal that would impose a per-mile tax on motorists to rescue the planet from an imagined catastrophe. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), a body established by the UK Parliament to advise the government on environmental issues, has set a target of a two-percent annual reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. CO2 is a naturally occurring gas that is essential to human life. The committee believes it can reach its goal by imposing massive new taxes on drivers that will reduce demand for driving which, in turn, would reduce carbon dioxide output.
When President Obama championed the federal stimulus bill, transportation and infrastructure projects accounted for a relatively small chunk of the total tab ($787 billion). BUT the Powers That Be hyped it hard; the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) piece of the pie was going to generate more than half of the 3.5 million jobs the Obama administration promised to create or save (don’t get picky). ProPublica’s crack investigative squad now reports that the DOT is having a little trouble shoveling the spade-ready jobs out the proverbial door. “Of the $48 billion in transportation stimulus funds, so far DOT has paid out only $3.4 billion, or 7 percent of the total,” according to Sunshine State Rep. John Mica, the top ranking Republican on the House transportation committee. DOT spokeswoman Jill Zuckman had an answer for that one. “The amount of money spent on highways isn’t as important as the amount of money that’s been approved, which has reached $19.4 billion.” Do people really think like that? Holy shit. It gets worse . . .
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has announced a ten-year, $20.6m tax break package that will keep the headquarters of Hummer in Detroit after the brand is sold to Chinese firm Sichuan Tenzhong. The Detroit News reports that Hummer will employ 100 workers at its headquarters post-sale, and plans to invest $9.4m over the next five years and hire an additional 200 employees. Negotiations between GM and Sichuan Tenzhong are ongoing. In other Hummer news, a study in the Journal of Consumer Research [via Science Daily] seeks to understand the mentality of the now-rare Hummer driver. And it turns out that, at least in the minds of Hummer drivers, giant SUVs are patriotic.
As Congress works on extending the authorization for transportation programs in the current session, thousands of lobbyists are investing millions in political donations and billable hours in the hopes of receiving a big payout in public dollars. The Center for Public Integrity, a left-wing watchdog group, last week released the results of an exhaustive examination of the financial ties between transportation lobbyists and lawmakers. In the first half of this year alone, 2100 lobbyists spent $45 million on influencing lawmakers who are busy dividing up an estimated $500 billion in funding ( view lobbying map). “Over the past two decades, this is the way federal transportation policy has largely been made in America — by a quasi-private club of interest groups and local governments carving out something for everyone, creating a nationwide patchwork of funded bypasses, interchanges, bridges, and rail lines with no overarching philosophy behind it,” Center staff writer Matthew Lewis explained.