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Editorial: Better roads, bridges for a dollar a week

Saturday, July 5, 2014
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It’s a federal election year, which means the last thing politicians in Washington are inclined to do is raise taxes.

But there’s one they should raise, and soon, because there’s so much at stake. And it’s the kind of tax hike that would barely be felt.

The federal gasoline tax has been level at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. If it had gone up with the relatively benign inflation rate during that time, it would be 12 cents higher, which is what a couple of U.S. senators have proposed doing — one in two 6-cent jumps, the other in three 4-cent increases.

Current gas prices, at $3.75 a gallon or more, are a lot higher than most of us would want to spend. But there's a bigger issue at play here, one that would justify a modest increase in what we're paying now.

It’s important to raise this tax because of what will otherwise happen: The Federal Highway Trust Fund will go broke. In fact, it will have become depleted enough in just two weeks that the feds will have to start cutting back on aid to the states that's earmarked for highway construction.

If that happens, countless construction projects will grind to a halt and tens of thousands of jobs will start to disappear. Traffic jams will increase, causing an estimated $121 billion-a-year loss in productivity and wasted gas. Roads and bridges already in need of repair will get worse, causing an estimated $505 per vehicle in added repair costs per year. Perhaps of greatest concern, motorists’ safety will be compromised.

When fully implemented, the tax hike would cost the average motorist (driving roughly 12,000 miles) $50 per year. That hardly seems like enough to alter people’s travel habits, including vacationers who support local economies. It would be money particularly well spent in New York, where 23 percent of the roads are rated poor, 40 percent of the bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete, and 45 percent of the major highways are regularly congested.

Every dollar spent on road improvements saves $5.20 in fuel consumption, car repairs and productivity lost to traffic delays. And every $1 billion spent generates 28,000 jobs.

The revenue raised by the bills would be offset by the extension of six of 50 tax breaks due to expire this year. Thus, they would be revenue-neutral.

Unfortunately, not even President Obama is willing to go to bat for a broad-based, albeit small, tax hike like this.

Rather, he’s proposed raising the money by closing tax loopholes. That would be fine, but time is definitely growing short and Washington is not known for agreeing on complicated solutions in a hurry.

A 6-cent gas tax hike would be simple enough and fairest, forcing the biggest consumers of gasoline (and diesel, which would rise comparably) to pay the most.

 
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comments

July 5, 2014
7:52 a.m.
+0 votes
wmarincic says...

Stop with the tax increases. They take way more than enough taxes from us. Stop the duplicity and the waste and we can cut taxes not raise them. Only idiots call for the increase in taxes.

July 5, 2014
9:04 a.m.
+0 votes
joycemadre says...

Taxes throughout this country are excessive and especially in New York state. No way should any taxes be going up. Finding and cutting wastes should be the goal, it was never meant for the government to provide jobs, so lets bring back the small businesses cut some government fat there to start. Families have budgets and every time taxes go up as families we have to make cuts adjustments to our budgets. So officials do the same!!!

July 5, 2014
9:45 a.m.
+0 votes
mezz3131 says...

How about increasing state aid and cut foreign aid.........

 

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