Valley residents spend an average 49 hours a year in traffic jams. Until now, Minneapolis drivers were similarly stuck.
But next week, authorities will get traffic moving when Minnesota converts underused HOV lanes into HOT lanes, which means solo drivers who are willing to pay a toll will be able to use lanes formerly reserved for carpoolers. "When traffic is light, the toll might be 25 cents. When traffic's at a standstill, the toll could hit $8," according to USA Today. Carpoolers can still use the lanes for free. With technological advances in toll collection, including EZPass systems, HOT lanes don't require toll booths and tolls may be debited from a pre-paid account.
Converting HOV lanes into HOT lanes can ease congestion and raise revenue for additional highway improvements. Valley transportation expert John Semmens recommends the use of HOT lanes, among other ideas, for easing congestion in the Valley in his Goldwater Institute report, Buses, Trains and Automobiles: Finding the Right Transportation Mix for the Phoenix Metro Region.
Revenue-hungry cities are always looking for taxes to levy. The latest is the so-called "fat tax," which is a tax on foods the government deems unhealthy.
Detroit, recently ranked as the third fattest city in America by Men's Health magazine, is considering a new 2 percent tax on fast food restaurants like McDonald's to help it balance a $300 million budget gap.
Like other "sin" taxes ? taxes on tobacco and alcohol, for instance ? fat taxes have a lot of intuitive appeal. Polls show roughly 40 percent of Americans believe a fat tax is wise policy. After all, many people probably have the sense that Americans consume too much fat. What better way to reduce fat consumption than to raise the price through taxes?
But like other sin taxes, a fat tax has the potential to disproportionately harm the poor because it is a sales taxes paid by consumers regardless of income. And, there's something un-American about government policy that takes away an individual's responsibility for his own health.
After all, a government that gorges itself on tax money should hardly instruct its citizens on how to exercise moderation.
In 1998, the City of Tempe and America West Airlines entered into an agreement to redevelop part of downtown Tempe. The city agreed to convey property to America West for free and then pay America West approximately $15 million over twenty years. In return, America West pledged to develop the property and convey ownership of the improvements back to the city. Tempe agreed to then lease the property back to America West.
But America West isn't living up to its contractual obligations. And, instead of assessing penalties against the airline, Tempe has amended the contract and foregone $350,000 in assessments. What did Tempe get in exchange? Nothing.
By not assessing any penalties, Tempe may have violated Article 9, Section 2 of the state constitution. Known as the "gift clause," the provision was designed to prevent the dissipation of public funds in speculative business ventures. According to the Arizona State Constitution ratification debates, the section was necessary because government officials in the Arizona territory had a history of losing public funds in such speculative ventures.
Tempe should remember that those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
Arizona is the nation's leader in educational freedom, meaning parents here have more options for educating their children than parents anywhere else. However, Arizona may be losing its top spot.
Governors of Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and at least 10 other states are working on innovative education reforms. Proposals include tax credits, certificates, and scholarships so all children can have an equal opportunity to attend great schools.
Yet, as the Business Journal reports, Gov. Janet Napolitano thinks the status quo "already offer[s] families plenty of viable choices for their children's education."
According to a recent poll, most Arizonans think otherwise. In fact, nine out of 10 likely voters favor school choice measures.
Families struggling to make the best educational choices for their children expect more-and deserve better-than being told "viable schools are good enough." Arizona students should not be left behind the educational opportunity curve.
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