Freeways and Freeloaders

By: T F Stern
T F Stern’s Rantings

Freeways are not free; they are very expensive to build and maintain. For that matter, neighborhood streets, connecting roads and all of what we now take for granted to get us from point A to B have come at a staggering cost and the up-keep requires considerable resolve.

Many states are coming to the realization they don’t have sufficient funding, or as we say around our house, “there isn’t enough money at the end of the month,” as they try to scrounge through the sofa looking for spare change. According to an article by Dan X. McGraw, some states are considering a “Tax by the Mile” levy on drivers.

“Politicians are struggling to figure out a way to adequately fund state and federal road and bridge repairs for the future. The federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents hasn’t been increased in nearly two decades, and few politicians seem eager to increase it.”


“As the (national vehicle) fleet becomes more fuel efficient…we’re going to lose a lot of revenue from the gas tax,” he (Josh Schank, president of the non-partisan ENO Center for Transportation) told the newspaper. “If it’s not replaced, we’re going to see our transportation infrastructure deteriorate.”


“Some states are exploring using the car’s onboard technology to remotely send the data to officials or using a pre-pay or unlimited mileage system. James Whitty, a manager at the Oregon Department of Transportation, wrote in a Bloomberg column that officials must do something to fund future infrastructure.”

Before I jump on board of any new fuel tax or increased levy system on drivers to pay for road building and repair, wouldn’t it be better to find out how much is being brought in and then find out where that money is being spent? There’s more information supplied by Zahira Torres from the El Paso Times, Austin Bureau, explaining how Texas legislatures are coming up short in their transportation budget.

“Since 1991, Texans have paid a 20-cent state tax per gallon every time they fill up their cars. Five cents goes to help pay for public education and the remainder, about $2.2 billion annually, helps finance the state’s transportation system. An increase of a penny would provide $115 million a year toward transportation and $38 million for public education. If the increase goes solely to transportation, it would provide $153 million annually.”


“Another suggestion is to increase vehicle registration fees.
Drivers in the state pay different registration fees based on a vehicle’s age. Registering a new car costs about $59, excluding county, road and bridge fees. Drivers of cars that are at least 7 years old pay about $41.”

States are looking for ways to match spending with income. Actually, since we’re talking about government, they’re looking for ways to bring in additional taxes so they can figure out ways to spend it all and then some; but that’s just how government works. Why not figure out how to spend less on some budget items that are less productive and divert that money towards the infrastructure which we all depend upon?

The next part made my head hurt trying to make the figures work; but my math skills have always been a bit lacking. That said here’s what State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso said regarding Texas roads.

“An estimated $487 billion would be needed to continue meeting the state’s highway needs for the next 20 years, according to a report by the 2030 Transportation Committee.”

Okay, I’m with him so far; that means we’ll be spending $24.35 Billion each year for the next 20 years if my calculator can be trusted.

“Texas’ two-year budget for transportation is about $16 billion but will go down by about $2 billion in the state’s proposed 2012-13 budget.”

Hold on there, Partner; that doesn’t add up. I thought he said it would cost around $24.35 Billion per year; then how come the two-year budget for transportation is listed at only $16 Billion? Then it will go down by $2 Billion for the following 2 years; how can that be? Folks in government would call this “fuzzy math,” but when I was in school they circled the answer with a red pencil and told me to improve.

Let’s put funding for our transportation infrastructure on hold and venture off on a tangent and see if it is related. Joel Nagel wrote an article explaining how the government can now restrict your ability to travel if you happen to owe them back taxes. I’ll keep this short, so go read his article; basically his last line summed it up:

“The Government beginning with the Passport Act of 1926 considers travel a “privilege” not a right.”

All that money you’ve been paying at the gas pump in taxes along with your vehicle registration fees which are intended to help pay for road building and maintenance; all that money you paid does not “automatically” entitle you to use those roads, provided you have a driver’s license. Travel is a privilege, not a right.

While we’re talking about money that should go toward transportation, how about we consider Food Stamps? Nobody is “entitled to” or has a “right” to Food Stamps, just like Travel is not a right. Nicholas Ballasy’s article, Sessions: Food stamp spending up 100 percent since Obama took office, happens to bring up a comparison of spending tax money on Transportation with Food Stamps.

“The vast majority of federal spending in the Senate farm bill, which is estimated to cost over $100 billion annually, is going toward food stamps, representing a 100 percent increase since President Barack Obama took office, according to Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

“The legislation will spend $82 billion on food stamps next year…we will spend next year $40 billion on the federal highway program,” said Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

“Food stamp spending has more than quadrupled, four times, it’s increased fourfold since the year 2001. It has increased 100 percent since President Obama took office,” he said.”

You mean to tell me we’re spending more on Freeloaders than on Freeways? We just increased spending on Food Stamps in the past three years by 100 percent; how much more good could that money have been used on restoring, upgrading and improving our transportation infrastructure? The government has more than enough tax revenue if they’d quit wasting it. We could forget about increasing the gasoline tax, forget about raising vehicle registration fees and toss that Draconian idea of taxing motorists by the number of miles they drive if we changed the direction of spending. Get rid of the freeloaders first and we could take care of the freeways in short order.

This article (will be) cross-posted (once the site is back up) to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government & The American Constitution.”

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