The conclusion of this editorial is that the government should lower property taxes for railroad companies. The first reason given is that railroads spend billions per year maintaining and upgrading their facilities. The second reason is that shipping goods by rail is cost-effective and environmentally sound. This argument is unconvincing for several reasons.
First of alt, the argument depends upon a misleading comparison between railroad and truck company expenditures. Although trucking companies do not pay property tax on roads they use, they do pay such taxes on the yards, warehouses and maintenance facilities they own. And while trucking companies pay only a portion of road maintenance costs, this is because they are not sole users of public roads. Railroad companies shoulder the entire burden of maintenance and taxes on their own facilities and tracks; but they distribute these costs to other users through usage fees.
In addition, the author assumes that property taxes should be structured to provide incentives for cost-effective and environmentally beneficial business practices. This assumption is questionable because property taxes are normally structured to reflect the value of property. Moreover, the author seems to think that cost-effectiveness and environmental soundness are equally relevant to the question of tax relief. However, these are separate considerations. The environmental soundness of a practice might be relevant in determining tax structuring, but society does not compensate a business for its cost-efficiency.