If you want to fix potholes, you tax the people who use the roads most, right? Commercial haulers, delivery services, and people who commute long distances everyday should be responsible for the upkeep of transportation infrastructure. In which case a gas tax makes perfect sense. It would tax those who drive the most (or drive the most fuel-inefficient vehicles) and, if indexed to inflation, it would provide a steady, long-term source of revenue. It would also be a strong incentive for people to walk, ride bicycles, carpool, or take the bus, instead of driving everywhere.
But any mention of a new tax makes reactionary politicians in Olympia cringe. Knee-jerk rhetoric flies back and forth about “no new taxes,” and eventually the yahoos come up with stupid solutions that only make the problem worse. Witness the new transportation plan that’s recently passed the House.
This plan would raise $2.4 billion over five years through bond issues that would divert money from the general fund. It’s a credit card approach. It’s also limited to only five years of repairs, while the bond issues for the project will continue over a 25 year time span. How’s that for saddling future generations with onerous debt?
Furthermore, a detail buried within the bill would earmark money from the state surplus to pay for “criminal justice.” How this applies to transportation is unclear. Obviously, politicians from both parties are using this legislative session to give out bonuses to their favorite campaign contributors in preparation for the elections in November. As usual, it’s obvious whose interest our legislators serve: the bond market, investors, the criminal justice industry, etc.