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All Da King's Men

Government And The Gas Tax

By Da King Published: January 15, 2008


A two-year government commissioned study proposed that federal gasoline taxes should be increased up to 40 cents per gallon over five years. The purpose of the massive tax increase would be to fix aging bridges and roads, and reduce traffic deaths.

Calling for immediate action, the congressionally created panel warns that "applying patches" is no longer acceptable, saying the nation risks tens of thousands of highway casualties each year and millions of dollars lost in economic growth.

"The crisis is now," the report states.

Among the recommendations, which are expected to cost $225 billion each year for the next 50 years:

—Work to cut traffic fatalities in half over the next 17 years by urging states to embrace new strategies to improve safety.

—Ease traffic congestion by expanding state and local public transit systems and highway capacity.

—Protect the environment by smoothing traffic flow, encouraging alternative commute options such as carpooling and public transit and promoting energy-efficient construction and lighting in transit systems to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

—Seek to develop new energy sources with new research programs costing $200 million annually over the next decade

Nobody wants our nation's infrastructure to deteriorate and/or collapse like the Minneapolis bridge, and maintaining our infrastructure IS a valid area for government to undertake (unlike so many others where they waste our money), but being the skeptical fiscal conservative that I am, I decided to investigate how our current gasoline taxes are spent. It seems to me that we already pay an awful lot in taxes on every gallon of gas. It also seems to me like virtually all that money should go toward maintaining our roads and bridges. Where else would it go ?

Where indeed. According to research by the National Center For Policy Analysis (NCPA), gas taxes are as follows:

- The federal government imposes a gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon.
- States levy additional gas taxes at rates ranging from a low of 8 cents per gallon in Alaska to a high of 44.4 cents per gallon in California.
- Combined federal and state gas taxes now average about 45 cents per gallon.

The 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act established the Highway Trust Fund and stipulated that 100 percent of the [federal] gas tax be deposited into this fund. The trust fund finances highway building and maintenance across the nation.

Well, in theory that's what the Highway Trust Fund does. In reality, only about 60% of the money goes toward highway building and maintenance. Why only 60% ? Need you even ask ? It's due to politicians, naturally. They divert the rest of the money into mass transit and pork barrel projects. The NCPA breaks the spending down:

- Only 60 percent of federal gas taxes goes to the construction and maintenance of highways and bridges.
- Thirty percent goes to subsidize construction and maintenance of public transit facilities, such as bus terminals, light rail and subway systems.
- The remaining 10 percent is diverted to other projects — currently 6,000 projects — including bike paths, museums, nature trails, historic building repairs and so forth.

Since the DOT says 12% of the nations nearly 600,000 bridges are structurally deficient, before we saddle all americans with a huge tax that would hit the poorest among us the hardest, and impact most of us in a substantial manner, would it be too much to ask of Congress that all of the Highway Trust Fund money go to highway and bridge construction and repair ? Let the states and cities that want mass transit improvements and bike paths pay for it themselves. Put it on the ballot. Eliminate the pork. (Can we eliminate Congress ? No, I suppose not).

You know what I'd like to see for once, instead of the easy jump the pols always make to saddle the citizens with constantly greater and greater burdens to pay for constantly increasing government ? A two-year study in how to eliminate all the useless government programs, reduce waste, and cut spending. Now, there's a study I'd happily pay for, since it would more than pay for itself. I bet each one of us, regardless of our political allegiances, could review the federal budget and find that extra $225 billion to spend on highways without slamming the poor working man one more time. As almost always, the real answer is in LIMITING GOVERNMENT. Then we'd have plenty of money for roads and bridges, plus a lot more money in our pockets. That's what the movement is all about. And, as almost always, the real answer is, vote for very few Democrats (none of the liberal, big government variety), and vote out any wasteful Republicans as well (replace them with Libertarians or other third party candidates). Then we'd get somewhere, without stepping our citizenry step by step down the path towards insolvency, as we've been doing for decades and decades.

Or, we can just pay a lot more money for gas and complain.



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