The American Horizon: Drawn for Petrol, Quartered for Carbon Emissions

Dillon Zhou

Like our President in Washington, Deval Patrick is struggling with pressures of being in charge during a dark time in America’s history. It’s evident in his approval numbers. He mustered an embarrassing 28 percent approval rating from the general public in a recent poll conducted by Survey USA. While there’s an obvious difference between our President’s approval numbers – which remain in the 60’s according to most independent polls – and those of Mr. Patrick, there remains a starkly evident parallel between these two leading men. Both were hailed as charismatic outsiders who assumed the helm of two troubled polities during a rough patch. The two men possess silver tongues and had little real leadership experience before entering the executive office. Times are tough, especially for those in charge – as their job performance cannot be objectively judged due to the intractable nature of the government’s handling of any economic recovery effort.

The citizenry of Massachusetts are unhappy with the Governor’s management of the state’s economic welfare. The $128 million in cuts to local aid, the reduction of support to the health care system, the restructuring of education, and the recently proposed slew of energy related taxes go a long way towards tarnishing many people’s opinion of our Governor. When he entered office 26 months ago, his numbers were right up there with President Obama during his first days as Commander-in-Chief, but now they’re as low as those of President Bush during his last days in office.

What really got on my attention was Governor Patrick’s latest solution for the state’s $1.2 billion budget deficit for FY ’09 and projected revenue shortfalls ins FY ’10 – principally his proposed 19 cent gas tax and $2 carbon fee for parking at Logan Airport. It’s easy to understand why Governor Patrick would want to nickel and dime his constituents for gas, especially when one considers the magnitude and impact that the current economic recession has had on our nation as a whole – but also the needs of our state’s transportation infrastructure.

The gas tax will pay for much needed make improvements to the Commonwealth’s roads, public transportation system, transit projects, and other operation costs for the transportation system as a whole – a detailed in the February 21, 2009 daily edition of the Boston Globe. By taking such a bold step, the Governor will avoid making increases elsewhere to pay for mounting operating expenses for the MBTA, funding for transit projects, and back pay for highway employees. Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Green, we all have to come to grips with the fact that budget deficits call for tough and heart-wrenching fiscal decisions from our elected leaders. The state’s coffers won’t stop bleeding if we all turn a blind eye to it. Though these measures may be tough, they are needed for the moment – though I can’t be entirely sure about the benefits of keeping such taxes permanent.

As for the so-called carbon fee, I find it quite incredulous that the Governor would don the cape of global warming crusader Al Gore in his efforts to rationalize a short-term hike of $2 per car at Logan Airport – on top of a $1 hike in the parking rate introduced by Massport during the past week. Patrick’s recently appointed transportation secretary, James Aloisi Jr., recently commented about this fee, “this fee will not only help improve our budget problems, but it will also benefit the environment as well.” The only real supporters of this fee can be found in environmentalist groups like Greenpeace, who usually affirm any measure taken by the government to reduce humanity’s impact on the world. I don’t believe any independent citizen buys into this. The Survey USA poll has placed them firmly against the Governor with a whopping 78 percent of the responders expressing disapproval for this imposition. Keep in the mind that these people will be important for the upcoming gubernatorial race in 2013 – so Patrick will have four years to improve his approval rating.

I think we can all agree, to some degree, with our own Professor Watanabe, of the Political Science Department, when he says this about our Governor: “Look, this is not where Deval Patrick wanted to be in the third year of his term. Assuredly, there will be a considerable amount of distress raised by his proposal but… I think there are plenty of people who recognize that in some ways the sky is falling and something has to be done about it.”