Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Governors and Ex-Mayors Speak Out on Gasoline Tax Surcharge and Earmarking

Yomiuri conducted a gasoline tax survey of all 47 provincial governors on the surcharge and the earmarking for roads and reported the results in today’s (April 8) hardcopy version. Unsurprisingly, 42 supported the maintenance of the surcharge, while none opposed it. However, when it came to conversion of the gasoline tax revenue to general-purpose funds, only four governors supported Prime Minister Fukuda’s proposal. 11 opposed it, while a whopping 32 remained undecided.

Asahi has an online article entitled:

Road-Earmarked Funds; True Confessions from Retiring Mayors Who Signed “Supporting” [Petition]

According to the report, only six of the 1800 mayors nationwide had refused to sign a petition circulated last November by the “National Committee of Alliances to Actualize the Promotion of Road Development and Maintenance” demanding that “all the road-earmarked funds shall be used for the raod development and maintenance and the temporary tax rate shall be extended beyond fiscal year 2008.” Asahi contacted 38 of the 45 ex-mayors who did not run for reelection and instead retired last year to ask their current views on the earmarking. 35 gave answers, including three who were still mayors at the and actually signed the petition. According to the report, 13 of the 35 supported total conversion to general funds, four supported a partial conversion, and another actually supported the elimination of road taxes altogether. Of the 17 conversion supporters, 10 supported the elimination of the surcharge, and none supported the maintenance of the surcharge at current levels. Of the three ex-mayors who signed the petition, one now supports conversion.

I know too little of the mechanism for the distribution of the funds and the actual allocation to local governments to be able to parse this information. It’s interesting to me, though, that a) local leaders are not as committed to the road tribe’s cause as it wants people to believe; and b) so many incumbent governors are sitting on the fence with regard to the abolition of earmarking; though c) there are a larger number of ex-mayors who still favor earmarking. I can think of a variety of reasons for these results, but to repeat, I don’t have the wherewithal to weigh them properly. My hunch is that the political party that is able to figure it out will be in a position to come up with the winning formula. I wonder if someone in the DPJ is working on it.

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