Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gas Tax Wars

I don’t pretend that I know a lot about the oil industry. In fact, until yesterday I had never heard of the concept of “blender pumps”.
Apparently, there are two types of ethanol that is sold to South Dakota gas retailers. E85 contains 75 – 85% ethanol, and the state tax on that product is ten cents per gallon. E10 contains around 10% ethanol, and the state tax is twenty cents per gallon. These taxes are collected on the product when delivered to the retailer.
There are 17 retailers in this state that allows consumers to create their own blend. By pushing a button on the pump, you can create a “homemade” version of E20 or E30. The pumps figure out the mix, and the tax that is forwarded to the consumer depends on how much of each form of gas is pumped into your vehicle. Besides giving consumers more choices at the pumps, the ethanol industry also claims that these pumps create the most efficient blends.
This sounds pretty cut and dry, if you ask me. Not to our Governor, though. If retailers offered E20 or E30 as a normal product, the tax collected on delivery would be higher than is what they receive from the combination of individual elements.
During our last legislative session, Governor Rounds attempted to close what he perceived to be a loophole in the law. At a time of rising gas prices, though, along with the premise that this would send a “poor message” to one of our state’s fastest growing industries, our legislature failed to pass his legislation.
This story should end right at this point, as only the legislature can create or adjust taxes. Yet two weeks ago, he instructed the Department of Revenue to send a memo to all gas outlets that they would need to begin collecting an additional twenty cents per gallon tax from consumers that use these blender pumps.
Again, traditional gas taxes are collected when fuel is delivered, and then are passed on to us when we fill out tanks. If we use these special pumps, we not only will pay that original tax but another twenty cents per gallon. I don’t know how Rounds can say with a straight face that this is not double taxation.
Should I be surprised by this move? Not really. There’s a side of Rounds that seems to be extremely arrogant, and this is a perfect example. He didn’t get his way this past winter, so he’s just going around the legislative branch and attempting to enforce his will anyway. It just seems to be petty, especially on a product that’s available at less than twenty businesses. Does he have relatives who own competitors to some of these stores? It wouldn’t surprise me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

R.I.P. Danny Federici

Wow, I knew he was ill but didn't realize it was this serious. He left the Springsteen tour last fall, but had recently surprised everybody with an appearance in Indianapolis.

From brucespringsteen.net
"Danny and I worked together for 40 years - he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much...we grew up together."
—Bruce Springsteen

Danny Federici, for 40 years the E Street Band's organist and keyboard player, died this afternoon, April 17, 2008 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City after a three year battle with melanoma.

The Federici family and the E Street family request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund. A web site for the Fund is being established and we'll post its link when it is on line.

Bruce Springsteen's concerts scheduled for Friday in Ft. Lauderdale and Saturday in Orlando performance are being postponed. Replacement dates will be announced shortly

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our Silly Mayor Want You! Or So He Says

It’s pretty well known that I’m not a big fan of our silly Mayor. Seriously, he’s one of the few politicians who can make former Senator Larry Pressler look like a brain surgeon.
But it’s not his lack of intellect that really bothers me. God knows we’ve had our share of idiots in every office on the local and national level.
Nope, it’s his actions from the moment he took office that I have questioned. I don’t like how he’s beholden to city insiders, how the Phillips to the Falls fiasco that proved that rules don’t matter when it comes to his favorite projects, or how he goes against his Republican values and wants to mortgage our future to pay for his legacy.
What has always bothered me the most, though, is the entire Arena fiasco. A couple of years ago, he tried to force this project upon us in a location that had tons of logistical problems. By putting together a hand-picked task force, he got the approval that he obviously mapped out before those people had their first meeting.
Luckily, the voters rejected the first part of his plan – the recreation center. With that devastating public vote, the new arena was tabled. Well, it was for a bit of time.
That didn’t stop certain individuals from continuing to pushing forward for a new facility. At least they abandoned the downtown location, and unveiled plans at a much more feasible location. Somehow, though, their ideas became even more grandiose, and what was originally a 12,000 seat building has now ballooned up to 18,000 people. Quick, name me something that would fill that many seats. And you can’t say the upcoming Zepplein reunion tour, as that wouldn’t come here even if we had room for 100,000 people.
Mayor McCheese has been brought back into this issue, though, and in Sunday’s daily paper he announced that he was taking applications for a new task force. Although he still denies that the last task force was indeed independent (yeah, right), he now claims that he’s looking for a “broad-based” committee.
Sure, he is. We all know that it’s once again going to be a hand-picked group of yes-men that will just tell the Mayor what he wants to hear. To prove that theory, I have downloaded this extremely complicated five-question form and I’m going to apply. I think I can bring some reason to this nonsensical rhyme, and hopefully the Mayor agrees.
I’m not holding my breath, though. I’m sure I won’t make the cut for obvious reasons. But I beg Your Highness to appoint at least one person who will ask the tough questions, and not just pat him on the back. Hell, maybe he’ll even finally convince me that there are dozens of giant acts that are begging to come to our fine city. Hold on, let’s not get carried away.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Do You Really Need My ID?

Once again, today’s rant is nothing earth-shattering. In fact, it’s just a minor little bitch the affects just me. Well, me and maybe a few thousand other people who suffer this same annoyance. I just hope that somebody hears me, and makes a few changes.
I’ve stated many, many times how much I love my bank…particularly their drive-through tellers. Well, that’s not so true anymore, as the beauties that used to take care of my bank needs have either transferred to other locations or have left the company. I hope these decisions have nothing to do with my presence. :)
You may recall that I had an earlier complaint about this company. Instead of just handling my business and sending me on my way, they began wasting my time by offering stupid deals. Sorry, but that’s not what I’m at the bank to deal with, but thankfully that program has been retired…at least for now.
No, this is a new complaint. It’s actually a very, very minor complaint, but it is something that annoys me. Isn’t that why I’m here?
Whenever I make a deposit, I request a small part of it back to me in cash. Trust me, it’s a minor portion…generally less than 10%. Yet to get these few bucks given to me, I have to hand over not one but two ID’s.
I understand that identity theft is a big deal these days (especially if you follow the media), but as I said this is less than 10% of my total deposit. Plus, there’s a signature on my paycheck and deposit slip. They obviously have a copy of that on record.
I could understand this policy if I was simply cashing my paycheck, or was taking back the majority of the money. Again, I’m just taking back whiskey-coke money! No thief worth his reputation would deny themselves so much to take so little.
Don’t worry, I understand what everybody is saying at this point. What’s the big deal? You give then what they request, and you get them right back. You don’t know how I operate. The teller loads everything into a little envelope, which I then toss onto my passenger seat. Hours later, or it could be the next day, I don’t have my driver’s license or credit card when I need it. By then, in fact, it’s buried under Ipods, books, magazines, mail, and other junk.
So I’m here today to beg the fine people at my bank – please change this policy. Or at the very least, let me sign some piece of paper that absolves you if somehow I’m robbed by a thrifty thief who really doesn’t want to do me much harm. I’m willing to take the risk if it gets me through your drive-through a minute or so faster.