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.

  • Maximus Prime

    I think the expectations that anything will be done or that the House & Senate will make long-term changes is pretty darn low. We are going down a bumpy unmaintenanced road in circles.

  • The Moby

    Expect a tax. A nice big one.

  • Jim

    This is what happens when IDIOTS are sent to Wash. DC, just like Senators Malarkey and Wydum.

  • Myke

    Everyone knows, or should know, that the only way to ‘fix’ anything is to throw money at it. Whether its fixing roads, eliminating/expanding poverty, or buying our ‘friends’ in the international scene. Need a study on the benefits of nose picking, it a disorder you know, throw money at it, for Gods sake!

  • Sally

    We must pay for our roads. We must.
    Please people. Send your extra money to the DMV and do your share.

    • Prattle Call

      U Gotz medical mj in your Oregon Trail mix?

  • IhateLiberals

    It might be pointed out that roads in Nevada and Arizona are much better than in Oregon in large part due to little money being wasted on light rail and other public transit boondoggles.

  • Bob Clark

    Wow. It’s great to have former Representative Butler involved in the Taxpayer Association. What a big plus!

    We in Portland live the negative consequences of the miss use of Highway Trust Funds each day. Instead of helping fund a second freeway like bypass of the downtown Portland City Core which would sharply reduce congestion on I-5 through downtown and North Portland; our federal dollars instead go to street cars and lightly ridden light rail projects to the suburbs.

    What’s more the federal transportation funding system has corrupted local and state governance. Our state and local governments (like Metro and the City of Portland) jump through federal government hoops to get the “free” federal monies for building glitzy capital intensive public transit projects (street cars and light rail), even though there is no money available for operating and maintaining these projects. The Fare box only captures about 25% of operating and maintenance cost (if I recall correctly). If fares are raised, even fewer folks would ride these monolithic relics of past era transportation modes.

    These projects have robbed the City of Portland of tens of millions of dollars in street maintenance funding such that now “Street Car” Charlie is demanding to take dollars out of the hide of even poorer Portlanders (the so-called “street fee”). At the same time, his street car system serves mostly just a few high end Portlanders of the Latte drinking class; getting plush public funded rides between the upscale Pearl District and South Water front District.

    Rich Developers and entrenched unions live off this specious money printed regime; federal dollars coming from the federal money printing press to state and local government for distribution to favorite developer and union – a friendship paying campaign funds and future job opportunities for the complicit, supportive politician types (such as “Street Car” Charlie).