MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA — I wonder what we are going to run out
of first — gasoline or safe quality roads to drive on? With Congress’ massive
mismanagement of our national road system and its costly “green
programs,” the best bet is safe quality roads.
Lawmakers established the Highway Trust Fund in 1956 to ensure dependable
financing for the maintenance of the U.S. interstate
Revenue is raised through a federal
tax on gasoline and diesel fuel,
as well as by excise taxes on truck tires and sales of trucks and trailers
and heavy vehicle use. The fund is going broke.
In the late 1950s, Congress increased the original tax of $.03 cents
per gallon of gasoline to $.04 cents, where it remained until 1982.
In 1982, Congress directed that $.0286 cents per gallon of the gasoline
tax be diverted to mass transit. The next year, the tax was increased
to $.09 cents, with $.08 cents going to highways and $.01 cent to the
newly created Mass Transit Account. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation
Act of 1990 increased the tax another $.05 cents per gallon, with half
going to the fund and half to deficit reduction. The tax was increased
again in 1993 to the current level of $.184 cents per gallon of gasoline
and $.244 cents per gallon of diesel fuel.
In 2008, the fund ran out of money and was infused with $8 billion
from general fund revenues. One year later, it is again out of money.
This has left us with too little money for roads, bridges, and tunnel
construction and maintenance.
The lower revenues are due in large part to motorists driving less
and shifting to more fuel-efficient vehicles. The problem is only going
to get worse as we move toward the use of other fuels, particularly
Unfortunately, a Congress driven almost solely by polls, rhetoric,
and special interest lobbies is unlikely to do anything to resolve
this mess. Instead, we are likely to see a continued decline in the
quality of what has been the greatest infrastructure development of
all time — the U.S. interstate system — now in serious decline and
Our roads may well reflect the state of our nation. The expected increase
of at least $.05 cents in the gasoline tax and almost $.15 cents in
the diesel fuel tax will further decrease the miles driven and significantly
increase the costs for delivering goods to our local stores. Taxpayers
will be hit on both ends — higher taxes and higher costs of goods.
Everyone loses as Congress continues its counterproductive policies.
The questions is why? It seems that virtually every move being made
by Congress increases rather than decreases our cost of living. Our
own government is reducing our standard of living and quality of life.
Will the American public respond and demand a change in the direction
in which those we have elected are taking us? Only time will tell.
The massive spending will make the $.025 cents gasoline tax increase
intended to reduce the deficit sink into an increasing black hole.
However, that is not the only place Congress is wasting our money while
ignoring the condition of our roads.
Diligently working to drive our debt burden up, Congress is giving
buyers of new cars a credit of $3,500 to buy a new car rated at 22
mpg if the car they trade in gets 18 mpg or less. Buyers will get $4,500
if the new vehicle gets 10 mpg more than their current “clunker.” For
buyers who trade in a truck or SUV, the deal is even sweeter. If the
vehicle is a 1984 or newer model, they qualify regardless of the mpg.
Interestingly, those who take advantage will, for the most part, be
wealthier taxpayers, as most of us cannot afford to buy new vehicles.
Congress is giving our money away to those who least need it while
ignoring the roads.
All this largess promoted in the name of “stimulus” and “saving
the earth” is supported by special interests that include the
auto industry, unions, and environmentalists. Who represents those
of us who pay the bill and who will have our standard of living further
reduced as a result of this nonsense?
It is likely that the majority of “clunkers” will be American
cars and that the new cars purchased will be made by foreign manufactures.
So much for Buy American. The debt being piled up will fall almost
exclusively on the American taxpayers and our children. So taxes will
remain American — even if profits and jobs do not. Let’s
be sure to thank our congressional representatives next time they come
home to visit.
A Voice from Fly-Over
A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright © 2009 by Robert
L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin
All rights reserved.
Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law
School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit
public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved
in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways
to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.
See a complete biographical sketch.
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