Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I agree with the governor

I never thought the words would cross my lips. Actually they haven't, just flown through my fingers into this blog, but close enough.

The Eye on Boise blog is reporting that Otter wants gas tax hike, fee increases. I may not agree with him on wolves, but on this topic we are in alignment.

First, our roads are in desperate need of new investment. It is clear that current funding is not keeping pace with the growing need and the growing prices of road materials. It doesn't take much driving around the state to realize that.

Road improvements are primarily funded through gasoline tax, which in my mind is the most appropriate source. Miles traveled would be the only more relevant measure, but gas tax is a close proxy for miles traveled yet has an additional incentive for individuals to drive more efficient vehicles. Tying funding to usage makes sense for me.

As growth in usage increases, more tax dollars flow in. At the same time, the needs from the road system also increase with that usage. What isn't compensated for in the current funding system is the inflation of road materials. Road materials have increased in price over 75% since 2003, or many hundreds of percents since the last gas tax increase. Thus, the buying power of our transportation department is a small fraction of what it was a decade ago when compared with vehicle miles traveled. We are not likely to completely close that gap, but a gasoline tax increase would definitely help.

If you agree that more dollars are needed for roads, where should those dollars come from? I believe that gasoline tax is the only reasonable option. It is much more relevant than income taxes or sales taxes. Increased gasoline taxes also provides an incentive to drive less, which has many other advantages - fewer roads needed, less pollution, decreased green house gases, etc.

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1 comment:

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