Friday, April 25, 2008

Let people have their grief in peace

Sometimes, the bills that come out of states irritate us. Sometimes, they anger us. And sometimes, they just seem silly or frivolous.

A recent bill in Missouri struck one of our listeners as belonging in the last category.

The measure aims to replace the makeshift roadside memorials families place along highways with official state ones. However, only memorials to victims of drunken driving would be created by the bill.

Frankly, I thought this was much ado about nothing myself. But I think we have a duty as a news outlet to let people know when lawmakers spend time – and therefore taxpayers’ money – on things like this.

The lawmaker involved thinks these little crosses are a safety hazard. Does he think encouraging people to read the little blue sign instead of paying attention to other traffic is any more safe?

And on top of that, what’s with making a grieving family pay – much less pay up to $1,000? Funeral expenses are bad enough these days. Why are we adding more expense to folks already under incredible personal stress?

We have serious problems in this country. Fuel prices are bankrupting people. The economy is in shambles. Our roads are deteriorating.

Let people who are in grief put up their little crosses and flowers, especially if it helps them get through it. Let’s get out of the business of putting up memorials for them.

Truckers and millionaires do have something in common

We try to keep you up to date on everything that can affect your life as a trucker – on all the issues linked to transportation.

However, as you can imagine, things happen all the time that you would never think of as transportation issues, but which are very definitely linked to this industry and its interests.

One of those is the so-called tech tax in Maryland.

The concept was simple – the state extended its sales tax to computer services, which previously weren’t covered.

The tech industry had a cow. After a major lobbying effort, they had it repealed. But it’s how they paid to make up the income lost that interests us.

The state diverted 100 million dollars out of transportation and other programs to pay for half of that tax cut on computer repair and other tech services.

The other half was paid for by what the state calls a “millionaire’s tax” – literally, a tax on incomes of 1 million dollars a year or more. I supposed I’m OK with that one, if we have to have a tax. But I think it’s silly to link highway users together with millionaires. I don’t ever recall seeing a trucker light an expensive cigar using a hundred dollar bill.

In reading about this, I saw something interesting. The tech community in Maryland, the businesses small and large in that industry, all worked together to get the tax repealed.

John Eckenrode is the president of Catonsville, MD, computer services company CPSI and a leader in the movement to get the tax repealed. He told a local newspaper that the tax would have a disastrous effect – his words – on his business and others like it.

He added, talking here about the repeal effort’s success, ‘‘If there is any … lesson, it is to get yourself a good publicity team, a good grass-roots team, a good lobbying team and get your fundraising lined up.”

Another leader in the repeal movement, Thomas Loveland, told that same local newspaper that lawmakers in the state didn’t understand the economic impact of taxing computer services. He added this: ‘‘It became all about educating them that this is a huge component for success in the economy.”

Folks, that is what OOIDA is doing every day. Our folks in Washington, DC, are making the case for truckers, and we are always trying to encourage a grassroots effort to back it up. In this case, grass roots means phone calls by truckers like you to Congress.

Those computer folks in Maryland blasted the state capital with phone calls, all talking about how that tech tax would affect them, how it would hurt their business, how it would cut their profitability – and therefore, cut their ability to pay taxes to the state.

Truckers need to learn from that example.

When OOIDA’s DC staffers speak with a congressional office and say truckers aren’t receiving the fuel surcharge paid by shippers, those folks are far more willing to believe that if they hear the same thing from truckers who live in their own districts.

We’ve shown that this works. We’ve done it before, with great success. If we can keep doing it again and again, we will make incredible, positive changes in this industry.