Forty Miles of Bad Road ….ahead. As you may or may not have heard……the Congress again has lost its way and “somehow” emptied the Federal Highway Trust Fund. A new proposal is to restack the deck chairs on the Titanic via a new law by Utah’s Mike Lee and of course our good friends at the Club for Growth, is on the way. They have this wonderful idea…..to just give each State their own collected Gas Tax to spend on whatever they want. Sounds good for all those covered bridges in Madison County…..doesn’t it? Meanwhile, the original intent of the Federal Highway Trust Fund was to make sure our National Highways and By-Ways would have a organized and seemless coherency. When people drive through Pennsylvania to New Jersey they should not suddenly find 40 miles of bad road. Or should they? Hey, it all sounds quite logical. Why be a donor State. Collect what you spend….or is that spend what you collect?
Back in 1993, the Congress in their wisdom (the Bill Clinton years!) determined to yank the 4.3 cent Federal Highway Trust Fund Tax and put that money toward paying down the National Debt. For seven years that money was diverted….until the year 2000! Today, the Trust Fund has dried up and is going broke and if we had allocated those seven years of diverted Federal Highway Trust Fund money – back into the Fund……we would be far more than flush. Instead, the new Republican push is to simply dump the entire system and let States like Utah and Montana take care of their own needs and roads……as if anyone is driving on them much. State officials can’t wait to dream up their own new versions of Bridges to Nowhere!
Currently, the 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax winds up serving all 50 States. The funds are allocated based upon need, growth and a cohesive strategy that the money will go to repairs and new roads which are required. Is there commensurate Administrative Federal Waste, Fraud and Abuse? Probably so, but what needs to be understood is that if that money goes directly to the States….how much Waste, Fraud and Abuse will occur there? As Frank Zappa and the Mother’s of Invention said: “New Cheese!” comes to mind for State Bureaucrats, rubbing their hands together – waiting for that new mega-millions in available cash.
Our good buds at The Club for Growth are projecting with the passage of this reallocation bill, that a huge rise in Toll Roads, pay as you go road systems and new costruction will occur at the State level. Probably not! The first thing any new system does is cause new wasteful Administration costs. Instead of having two people coordinate with Federal Highway officials…..they get to create their very own Byzantine nightmare! How many meetings and lunches will this process take to launch the very first State project? Another Sausage Factory? We don’t want to even think about it. Accountability, sweet heart deals, patch work Orange and various public/private projects that will choke a horse or two – will be just the beginning folks!
We might advise our Congress to figure out how to add to our debt by borrowing some more money from our National Debt……who cares if we have to add $500 million dollars to get back on track. Who cares if we have to add a penny or two more to our gas tax to keep our National Highway System running along on all four wheels. Dwight D. Eisenhower would roll over in his grave contemplating having individual State bureaucrats take charge of Federal Tax money for his signature Federal Highway System. If States want Public/Private Partnerships with Toll Road operators…..let them vote that in. If they want Red Light or Speed Trap Enforcement Cameras on their roads……let them vote that nonsense in too! If they want to put Speed Bumps or Round-a-bouts in every new neighborhood in their state…let them vote that in as well. If they want Reason Foundation Congestion Pricing from the time you turn the key on your car till the moment it stops – and you get charged by the mile…..why not – Let States Rights fly in the face of reason and necessary staple utility – and charge for every keystroke on your computer…while you are at it – brilliant Congress people! Why not just charge people $100 dollars a year for having an electric or hybrid vehicle too? Then you won’t need those Toll Roads….eh?
Do Away with Highway Trust Fund? Not likely buckos! We will fight you every step of the way…..all the way to El Alamein, if necessary!