2006-09-18

What will become of the congestion tax?

It looks like only Stockholm voted yes to the congestion charge. The surrounding communities voted no, and they did so by a wide margin. Nearly two thirds of poeple in greater Stockholm voted against making the congestion tax permanent.

Before the election, outgoing Stockholm mayor and Social Democrat Annika Billström declared her intention to ignore the referendums on the congestion tax held in greater Stockholm's communities, and to honor only the referendum held in Stockholm proper. Stockholm's citizens said yes to the congestion charge, but by a relatively narrow margin (51.7% for, 45.6% against).

But considering that the non-Socialist alliance has taken control of both the local and national govermnents, it seems likely that Billström's wish to ignore the wishes of the counties that make up greater Stockholm will be overridden.

What is not clear is how the differing wishes of the residents of inner Stockholm and the surrounding communities will be reconciled. Incoming Stockholm mayor Kristina Axén Olin has said that the wishes of Stockholmers would be honored. But after the election results came in last night, she gave some indications that the voices of the votes in the surrounding communities would also be taken into consideration.

These are interesting times indeed.

3 comments:

Tobbe said...

The goal with the congestion charge was to reduce the traffic in stockholm, and most of the cars are comming from the sourrounding communities, so from my horizon, asking them is like asking mexico what they think of the border to us..

daniel said...

Well, at least the Aliiance were not disagreeing and infighting until several hours after the election. :)

Michael said...

The goal with the congestion charge was to reduce the traffic in stockholm, and most of the cars are comming from the sourrounding communities, so from my horizon, asking them is like asking Mexico what they think of the border to US.

The environmental and health costs of having lots of cars in the city are hard to calculate; but certainly, these costs are paid predominately by Stockholmers. These problems must be tackled, but a tax on road usage isn't the right solution.

The congestion tax is a regressive tax that places an unreasonable financial burden on people for whom public transport is not an option. Many have no choice but to travel by road to or from Stockholm.

The financial burden is disproportionately levied on low-income workers, because the tax represents are larger proportion of their income. Well-to-do motorists can afford the tax; people who live on less money per month just don't have extra krona to spare.

Plus, vehicle registration fees and other taxes are meant to pay for the roads and highways. Citizens shouldn't have to pay twice for the same public service.

Finally, the so-called congestion tax has several unintended and detrimental consequences:
* many motorists take longer more circuitous routes to avoid paying the tax; this leads to more vehicles on smaller roads, and more pollution.
* motorists leaving Stockholm are also required to pay the tax, even though they are effectively reducing congestion in the city.
* people are discouraged from coming to the city -- this reduces business and therfore reduces tax revenues in the city.

Internal disagreement within the liberal bloc is appropriate and expected. The area of agreement between the four member parties is limited.

We shall see what becomes of this tax!