Highway fix built on false funds, gas tax dreams

butler-tomBy Tom Butler
Taxpayer Association of Oregon
Former State Rep. & County Commissioner.  Board Member Taxpayer Association Oregon.

“The Federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money”… so, what else is new in the government budget business? After decades of Trust Fund declining balances, forecasts and user-fee tax collection projections – this is something “new”— something our elected officials didn’t think would ever happen?

The Highway Trust Fund declines as politicians demand more fuel efficient vehicles, tell us to walk or ride bikes – all the while diverting funds into light rail, subsidized train/bus rides and other pet political projects. And knowing full-well that highway maintenance costs continue to accelerate.

What’s really wrong with the current proposed Trust Fund “fix” is that it demands $11 Billion dollars of non-existent extra General Fund money. This extra General Fund money is supposed to come from Personal and Corporate Income Taxes and Federal Death Tax collections that are being collected at recessionary rates. General Fund collections are losing ground at the rate of millions of dollars per hour. So you have a declining fund bailing out another declining fund and no one is talking about controlling spending.

To make matters worse, we have Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer advocating for a 15-cent increase in the federal gas tax. Blumenauer is one of the most vocal advocates of using gas taxes for non-road projects. If the Congressman gets his way many families will be paying $2-$3 more at the gas station to fund a broken spending system.   Senator Ron Wyden suggested this year his own tax plan — a $9 billion truck tax (for which he later backed away from).

— Tom Butler is a Taxpayer Association Oregon Board Member and previously served as a State Representative, Chair of House Revenue Committee and County Commissioner.  Butler is also GOP Chair of Mulheur County.