Scare Tactics Not Working in Road Tax Debates

By John A. Charles, Jr.CascadeNewLogo

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently issued a report describing the deteriorating condition of Oregon highways. The authors estimate that the cumulative cost to the state economy from poor roads will be $94 billion by 2035.

At the same time, the Portland City Council is considering a new local income tax to pay for road maintenance and safety, citing a lack of adequate funding.

While road maintenance is indeed a problem throughout Oregon, the public is unlikely to approve new road taxes. The primary reason is a lack of trust. During the past 15 years, Portland has squandered vast amounts of money on fads like streetcars, light rail, bioswales, and “road diets.” At the state level, ODOT spent nearly two decades and $180 million on a silly bridge-with-light-rail proposal to Vancouver, Washington that is now dead.

These projects were mostly aimed at getting people “out of their cars.” Yet the reality is, regardless of how people travel, more than 99% of all trips take place on a road. So road maintenance needs to be the top priority with existing transportation dollars.

New methods to pay for transportation infrastructure will eventually be needed, but politicians need to re-earn the public’s trust before that can happen.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President & CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.


  • Gregoty

    The scare tactics worked on me…I have so many potholes on my street I am pushing for this increase so they can get fixed…I drive a Prius, so these holes are really hard on the little guy…I even bottomed out on one and am worried if it hurt my little buddy….he gets 50 mpg, by the way, so I am not paying my fair share of gas taxes…so I am sending ODOT some extra money in the form of a check for $233, which is what I guess I owe them to make up for the difference on the gas taxes…I know this sounds crazy, but I believe we all must do our share to help out in these troubling times….

    • .


    • Ballistic45

      With this Socialist leadership in Oregon, You can Kiss that $233 goodbye..

  • Jack Lord God

    For the first time in probably a quarter century I decided to watch CBS’ 60 Minutes. The first story? Our deteriorating infrastructure. The investigation? None. No questions as to what had been done with money appropriated a thousand fold over for this exact purpose every several years in the past. Nope, just raise the gas tax. They actually even said many projects were “shovel ready”. Oh really?

    Same here. No looking at where the money is going, because that is harder than simply jacking taxes.

    I suggest a rather simple solution. One any business would apply. Look at where the money is going, and where it has gone in the past.

    When you find the BS projects where the money has been squandered, find those responsible, hold them up for public ridicule. These people should be listed in the paper right along sex offenders.

    Oh you have a bridge that could fall down and kill people and this jerk spent money on jaunty little street cars? Post his picture near the rapists. Some nitwit spent money on art installations along bike trails? Put those pictures in the forcible sodomy section.

    The good news is we can fix all our roads and bridges nationally without raising a penny of taxes. We have $300M for a website that doesnt work, $250M for studies of an idiotic bridge project nobody wanted. $1T spent on a stimulus plan that was supposed to have shovel ready projects, Obama joked that he found out there weren’t any.

    So the next time somebody pops up suggesting a gas tax, laugh at them, make fun of them, this person is either a crook or an idiot. Feel no guilt whatsoever in saying you would rather see every road and bridge collapse into the sea than add additional funds to what amounts to a corrupt system with BS projects that is really no different than the government of Uganda or any other corrupt regime.

  • Bob Clark

    These bio-swales (or cemented bio-ditches) are an interesting item. Supposedly, they are about cleaning road water so it doesn’t contaminate the Willamette River for instance. The government rolled out a study supposedly showing Salmon die if placed in a tank of just road water (shown on TV for effect). But then you get to thinking, hey the Willamette River is a large volumetric river, and road water is probably diluted to such a massive degree; the salmon in a tank of road water is a false premise.

    The government is so full of itself it is just one error after another. The government is now forcing preparation for man made global warming. This probably means we are in for a mini-ice-age-like cycle. Then there’s the Portland street car system whereby a pedestrian can walk faster than the street car between downtown stops (when including wait times for the street car). It’s back to the past in Port-Lunia.

    One has to really recognize the lack of trust in government by citizens when citizens can not trust government to change our state tax system to that of Washington state’s, a sales tax instead of an income tax. A sales tax rewards work effort relatively whereas Oregon’s income tax rewards taking a more leisurely paced type of work effort. As a result, personal incomes and prosperity in Oregon are in a long decline relative to that of Washington state.

  • IhateLiberals

    Maybe the bright lights at ODOT should tell the public why road projects in Oregon take 2 to 3 times longer than in nearby states such as Nevada and California. And why the “deserve” any money given the hundreds of millions they have poured into the Columbia Crossing failure and the crime infested light rail.

    • Jack Lord God

      You know those signs that say “Putting People Above Evil Corporations Tax Fairness Act paid for this road project”?

      Maybe there should be the reverse signs as well – “A Quarter Billion tax dollars went to study the CRC that’s why this bridge is falling down”

      Then have a few pictures of the dirt bags who made bank on this kind of crap along with some of the absolutely stunning bike trails and artworks.

  • Guest

    I’ve been listening to “old timers” complain about transparency in state government since I was a kid. Citizens complain inquiries are demanded, reports are generated, nothing really gets reported. It is my understanding that money gets earmarked for specific purposes. Managers don’t spend it all. The unspent money goes to the general fund. From there? After decades of cafe conversations, talk radio radicals, and bleacher blathering I have concluded…. it’s all going to PERS. Of course I can’t give you any details as I may be involved in a pending lawsuit.

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