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Thursday, June 4, 2015

This, Out of Jefferson City, Is Inexcusable

I saw this article and link yesterday, online:

Legislative session came — and went — with no highway fix

One of the most important things our state legislators at the state capitol needed to do this last session, the one just ended, was to have found some way to fund and pay for the infrastructure work and repairs we need all across this state on all our roads, bridges and highways.

They didn't touch it.

It's made all the worse by the fact that the Federal Government in Washington is playing the same seeming fiddle they are.

Congress has bought the U.S. two more months of highway funding – through the end of July. Just like last summer, Congress has left major uncertainty about federal funding for our nation’s highway system for debate during the height of the summer travel season.

We need about $50 billion a year to maintain the nation’s highways, but the main revenue source for that maintenance, the federal gas tax, hasn’t been increased even to adjust for inflation since 1993. Currently it brings in about $34 billion a year, leaving a major funding shortfall.

So each year, Congress finds itself passing short term stop gap measures. Each year, this process takes time and attention from other matters. Since 2008 alone, Congress has enacted 33 temporary fixes for the highway fund.

Proposals exist for more permanent solutions, but despite the seeming common sense of raising the gas tax after more than twenty years, lawmakers each year choose to continue underinvestment and uncertainty for our nation’s infrastructure. It’s part of a larger pattern of underinvestment in infrastructure, and we can do better.

And we've known we've needed these repairs and updates for years. We know we can't have good, smooth roads and bridges without upkeep. Nothing works like that, let alone our thoroughfares.

More on what needs to be done:

Highway Trust Fund $50 billion

Adding to the insanity of the current situation is that with gasoline prices having dropped so precipitously in the last year or two, it surely seems easy and clear that we should maybe add at least some, a bit, to our gas tax as a way to pay for it all. Gasoline has gone from over $4 per gallon 2 years ago to now just over $2 per gallon. Surely we can agree there's some room in there to raise the gas tax--it hasn't been raised since 1993, for pity's sake--so we can fund our transportation repairs.

America used to work. We used to be able to do things. We used to be able to do these things. It's how we built our national highway system. It's also how we built a thriving middle class and a strong, even robust economy.

Sure, the Republicans stand in the way of tax increases but we have to find a way forward on this issue and, of course, others.

Our choices are to start having our  roads, bridges and freeways become toll roads--no one likes those-- or we can continue to let them fall apart.

Surely we can all agree we don't want to be that kind of nation and people.

We need to get our legislators to act, on the state and federal levels, both.

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