A tax, from the Latin taxo, is a compulsory financial charge by the government in order to fund public expenditures. In economic terms, taxation transfers wealth from households or businesses to the government. This has effects that can both increase and reduce economic growth and welfare. Consequently, taxation is a highly contested topic.

So let’s debate whether or not the Transportation Climate Initiative, or TCI, is a tax or a point of pricing that can tax us on gasoline, diesel, natural gas and other fossil fuels, without the approval of the legislature. Baker Administration officials refuse to call it a tax and seem to think they have the authority under the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act to implement this TCI without a legislative vote. I disagree totally.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said the administration has broad powers and is uncertain whether they need the legislature’s green light here. Previously, though, it's been implied that those “broad powers” exempt the legislative process.

This is a 12-state cap-and-trade program that will put a financial charge on motor and diesel fuels primarily. That’s a gas tax, and that’s precisely why governors from other states, whether legally required or not, are seeking legislative approval from their representatives.

By December, we’ll know better whether or not if Governor Charlie Baker will pursue the consent of legislative Democrats to enter into this compact aimed at taxing carbon emissions. In any case, prepare to pay more at the gas pump.

Not that long ago, there was no debate that it was called a carbon tax, but that was before they substituted “tax” with “pricing.” The Baker Administration should be transparent and upfront here: it’s a tax.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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