You Can Pay At The Pump Or At The Body Shop

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gas pumps

As if the price of gas isn't high enough already comes this news from The Hill:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is introducing legislation that would nearly double the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax that is traditionally used to pay for federal transportation projects.

Blumenauer's bill would increase the gas tax by 15 cents, matching a proposal that was included in the 2011 Simpson-Bowles budget reform recommendations.

The legislation would result in drivers paying an extra 33.4 cents per gallon on their purchases, in addition to state taxes.

On the surface, this pisses me off. But then I got to thinking, you know what else pisses me off? Last week I hit a pot hole at night and damaged my car and threw the front tire out of alignment. I got it adjusted, but I was out a hundred dollars.

Streets aren't repairing themselves on their own. And bridges, overpasses, rail lines and runways aren't getting any safer with the lack of action by the 113th congress. They're content with just talking about our need to upgrade infrastructure. They're not willing to do anything about it.

We can't wait much longer. We're paying for it one way or another. If I hit that pothole, how many other people have done the same and how many more will be following behind me?

Blumenauer's bill sounds pricey. But when you come down to it, his proposed increase, along with the current federal tax on gasoline comes to less than 10% of the current price/gallon -- an amount similar to the sales tax in many places right now. But look what we could get for that. Safety on the roads, high speed rail upgrades (currently they exist only in California), repaired airport runways.

I'm not generally down for tax increases, but rather for taxes going down. Yet I'm also not for automobile repairs that are caused by a crumbling infrastructure. Maybe it's better to pay the 10% at the pump than face body shop work or worse, the potential loss of life.

Can we put a price on that? We're already paying in more ways than one. And consider this as well: The last time the federal gas tax was increased was 1993. You don't remember, do you? That's because we learned to live with it. And we didn't suffer irreparably. Prices didn't increase. Productivity didn't go down. People didn't lose jobs. So maybe it's time to pay the piper -- so long as he uses the money to employ the workers to fix the problems. That means jobs which help our economy and that's something we have do have to fix right away.

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  • Jack Boardman

    I'll be driving a whole lot longer than you seem to think—thanks (in
    part) to the collapse of the I35W bridge in Minneapolis (August 1,
    2007) we went on a rebuilding spree with help from the American
    Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—Replacing the Mississippi River bridge near South Saint Paul. We replaced that I35W bridge. We are also replacing the Lafayette Bridge over the Mississippi at Saint Paul. And soon replacing the Stillwater Lift Bridge over the Saint Croix River.
    We, as a community are subject to brutally-cold winters and often very hot summers and our roads take a beating. We currently (2013 numbers) pay a 47¢/gallon (28.6¢ state + 18.4¢ federal) gas tax. The national average is slightly higher than ours at about 49¢/gallon.
    We here are not immune to raising revenue on the backs of the poor, having just raised the cigarette tax by a dollar a pack.
    I just grow weary of taking the less fair—but easy way out.

  • David G

    Jack, you won't be driving at all if the infrastructure gets dinged much more -- not even horse and buggy. If you use the roads, you will feel the pain one way or another. I'd prefer a general fund to provide the relief, but in lieu of that, we have to start thinking of ways to overcome a malfunctioning government. Waiting won't make the bridges, roads, railways any safer -- or cheaper.

  • Jack Boardman

    A
    consumption-tax—as with all such taxes, it will affect the poor and
    lower middle-class (read Walmart* workers, for example—who must drive to work and
    likely own a decrepid Buick Regal—or similar car) the hardest and
    affect the more affluent the least (Prius-driving hipsters). For me,
    it won't matter all that much—but...