So the tax-hike proponents at the Dallas Morning News are once again pushing the false choice between higher taxes or no new roads, after word hit their newsroom that only 15 percent of American voters support higher gasoline taxes.
The Rassmussen Reports poll found that 74 percent of Americans objected to raising the federal tax on gasoline. That crosses all party lines.
It should be noted that a national poll on a national policy is markedly different than what is politically palatable in a particular state. The Morning News, oddly, didn’t make that distinction.
Instead, the Morning News’ Rodger Jones made the immediate leap into suggesting that that means everything will come to screeching halt, repeating the fairy tale that (without higher taxes) there is no money for new roads. The only solution the Morning News’ editorial writer can fathom is higher taxes. And has it been mentioned that higher taxes are really, really the only possible solution to the problem?
Jones and other hike-the-tax proponents refuse to consider the need to implement transparency and spending accountability. One really does have to begin to wonder why.
Both Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison have it right. More money does need to flow into road construction (as Perry has said), and new taxes are not needed (as both have said). Right now, our transportation tax dollars (state and local) are being used in ways that have nothing to do with relieving congestion and improving mobility.
So before draining more money from the economy into the current black hole of transit and transportation spending, let’s first end all of the gasoline tax diversions. What does putting 22% of the gasoline tax into road construction do? One certainty is that it will do more than it is current doing being diverted elsewhere.
At the same time, we must require that dollars raised or spent for “transportation” actually be used to reduce congestion and improve statewide mobility. The first dollar must go to projects that reduce congestion the most, the fastest and for the least amount of money. Right now, congestion relief and mobility improvement isn’t part of any metric for spending accountability; it’s just rhetoric used to push the big-tax agenda.
Finally, impose transparency on those who are doing the spending. State government already has it, but local transit and transportation agencies have steadfastly refused to make their expenditures available online, in real-time, for public review. Harness the imagination, creativity and expertise of 24 million Texans to ensure their dollars are being spent with the highest efficiency.
There is a very real problem, and cost, to congestion. But what we have been doing — diverting money and spending what’s left behind closed doors — hasn’t worked. Rather than continue to do what hasn’t solved our problems, let’s do something new. Spend the dollars on the problem, and see just how far that gets us down the road.