Sunday, September 15, 2013

Another Example of the Inability of Congress to Function

In 1956 when Eisenhower was President the Highway Revenue Act was approved to pay for the Interstate Highway System. The Federal Tax rate was set at 3 cents. In the 50’s it was raised to 4 cents. In 1982 under Reagan it was increased to 9 cents, then under G.H.W. Bush it increased to 14 cents, of which 2.5 cents were designated for deficit reduction and lastly it was increased to 18.5 cents under Clinton in 1993. All of the increase designated for deficit reduction. There it has remained to this day. The fund continued to drop to where Congress authorized a transfer of $35 Billion from the General Fund to shore it up between 2008 and 2010. Senator John McCain and Hillary Clinton during their campaign to become President proposed a gas tax holiday. Hillary suggested making up the shortfall with a windfall tax on the oil industry. Since 2000 there have been half a dozen attempts by members of Congress to suspend the gas tax entirely. THE FUND IS PROJECTED TO BECOME INSOLVENT THIS YEAR. Believe it or not the U.S. Chamber of Commerce actually supported raising the gas tax this year. All of the above data I gleaned from Wikipedia. Why take the time to write about it now. My reason is that in this week’s newspapers were two articles which caught my attention. The first had to do with increasing sales of large SUV’s and pickup trucks, the second was a proposal to generate funds for highway and bridge repairs by installing toll booths as the only viable way to raise funds for road repair. Just think of the added cost of installing and manning booths and the travel delays that would be a result.. So here you have it, the fund will go broke yet this year but no one in Congress or the President has the intestinal fortitude to state the obvious that the tax must be increased with all funds for construction and maintenance. Had they just had the wisdom in 1956 to tie the tax to inflation it might have grown sufficient to cover the needs. They didn’t and no Congress since then has seriously given this need the proper attention. It is like everything else including Social Security and Medicare. They keep pushing off into the future instead of preparing seriously to assure funds are available when needed. It is so ridiculous that there are Arizona legislators who are complaining that electric and hybrid vehicles are not paying gas tax and that something must be done about it. Never mind that the responsible people who purchase these vehicles pay a high price to purchase. Friends of mine who have them do it as their contribution to lower pollution and out of concern for the rise in temperature in the world. They should be applauded not penalized with a special purchase tax or however they deem it prudent to extract funds. Even if they did I can assure you the funds accumulated would not go for road maintenance. They would find some other purpose or no purpose at all just add to the State general fund Once Americans understood that the cost of gasoline would be increasing year by year they would make their purchases accordingly. Merely mandating CAFÉ increases will be ineffective as there will always be exceptions carved out as they have done repeatedly over the decades. It has been so long since we had leaders we respected that I accept that no politician will ever propose an increase in the gas tax either on the National or State level. Should we have leaders we felt we could trust then I believe the old fashioned American can do spirit could be rekindled. Without it our roads and everything else will continue to deteriorate until we are just the shell of a once great nation. Jack B. Walters September 15, 2013

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