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Editorial: Hybrid Hijinks

Discouraging innovation in high-tech Virginia.

Consider this as a possible scenario (although perhaps we should have saved this for April 1): Fewer people are smoking, and many of those who do are smoking less. Virginia’s cigarette tax, the lowest of any state at 30 cents a pack, is a declining revenue source. Higher cigarette taxes are proven to reduce smoking. Under current logic in the commonwealth, there would be two courses of action to raise revenue: a) cut the cigarette tax, and b) charge non-smokers a fee to make up the difference and to compensate for the fact that they don’t pay cigarette taxes.

This is basically the convoluted approach that leads to the $100 annual hybrid fee as part of Virginia’s proposed transportation plan, to help make up for the reduced tax on gas.

The annual $100 surcharge for owners of hybrids vehicles should be stripped out of the transportation bill. Something that could add $1,000 to the price of owning a car over a normal period of time discourages innovation and punishes people who are trying to reduce pollution and dependence on oil.

It also seems likely that the greatest concentration of ownership of hybrid vehicles would be in Northern Virginia, so it’s one more way to extract more money from our region.

To replace these funds, plus a little, why not charge an additional $100 annual registration fee for any vehicle with a purchase price of $40,000 or more? Or charge the additional $100 for any personal vehicle with a miles-per-gallon rating of less than 25 miles per gallon highway, especially since the more gas your car burns in Virginia, the more of a break you are receiving on the gas tax reduction. Or charge a sliding fee based on the number of miles driven and the weight of the vehicle (hint: the fee would go up with the miles and weight).

Or raise, rather than reduce, the gas tax and index it to inflation.

Sober on Saint Patrick’s Day?

Saint Patrick’s Day has always been a holiday associated with alcoholic beverages.

You, and/or the young adults in your household, will naturally have a plan to celebrate without drinking and driving. Plan to have a designated driver. Plan to take public transportation home. Plan to party at home or at a friend’s house where you can spend the night.

If all of those plans fall through, however, and you end up without a ride home when you’ve been drinking on Saint Patrick’s Day, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program has a safety net for you, SoberRide — Saint Patty’s edition.

WRAP's 2013 Saint Patrick's Day SoberRide program will be offered on Sunday, March 17, from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Monday, March 18. To receive a free cab ride home (up to a $30.00 fare), call 800-200-8294. You must be 21 or older to use the SoberRide service. Last Saint Patrick’s Day, more than 600 potentially impaired drivers made use of this service. SoberRide has provided more than 57,000 free rides home to people who otherwise might have driven drunk.

See www.soberride.com.