Thursday, January 24, 2013

End of the Road for Road Construction? Suddenly, Republicans must govern.

We’re about to see the management of our state government fail. The party that hates government and refuses to increase taxes is about to hit the wall.
jsonline: A state commission on Wednesday recommended raising the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon and creating a new, mileage-based fee - ideas the top two leaders in the state Assembly immediately shot down.
"Any increase in the state gas tax is simply off the table," Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) said in a statement. In the same news release, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he and Suder would not back the proposed mileage-based fee.
The Transportation Finance and Policy Commission believes the state should raise fees by about $640 million a year for transportation costs. That would result in $120 in added costs for the owner of a typical passenger vehicle. It also recommended increasing borrowing.
That negates any proposed middle class tax cut. Doh! Of course letting the roads go to hell allows Republicans to freeload off the legacy of past taxpayers, and leave actual spending for some future Democratic administration. Still, that doesn't seem likely now that gerrymandering has created a permanent majority. So something’s gotta give, or maybe not.
The unanimously adopted report found that even if the state decided to allow roads to deteriorate further before fixing them, the state would face a deficit of about $2 billion over the next 10 years. Without additional funding, the percentage of roads in the state in poor or worse condition would double, from 20% to 42%, the report says. Major projects would be delayed by six years, resulting in a 22% increase in the number of congested highway miles.
The Republicans love going in circles, spending taxpayer money repealing and then reinstating the same old solutions with the all-important conservative stamp of approval this time around.
The panel also backed creating regional transportation authorities that could levy a 0.5% sales tax. Democrats created similar authorities when they controlled state government in 2009, but Republicans repealed the law creating them when they took power in 2011. The commission also recommended reinstating automatic annual increases in the gas tax to account for inflation. Such increases happened annually for 20 years under state law, but that law was repealed in 2006. 
Repealing the automatic increase in the gas tax was spearheaded by Republicans in 2005, and surprisingly swept in a whole bunch of Democrats, including Gov. Jim Doyle, who now regrets signing it into law. Republicans also rejected Doyle’s plan "to tax oil companies rather than consumers …  Doyle's proposal would bar oil companies from passing the tax on to consumers." I also thought this was interesting from way back then: “Republicans have not offered an alternative to pay for roads.”

How things haven’t changed. But from an jsonline story from Dec. 5, 2010, there’s another choice:
“…or take money from the general fund, which would force deeper cuts for other state programs.”
So the “surplus” really isn't a surplus after all, it’s a normalization of revenues that could help us maintain our state’s infrastructure, if we don't give it all back in another ridiculous tax cut scheme for Walker's reelection. 

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