Fresh off their capitulation on almost every issue of substance during their first two months of the new session, Republicans are now joining with Democrats to start a PR war to cushion the blow for their plan to institute a tax hike that will disproportionately affect low-and-middle class families. The PR push in question relies on a fake and manufactured crisis concerning the imminent “shutdown” of the Federal Government’s highway program slush fund. The lobbyists in question would like for you to believe that if the program is not reauthorized, America will not have roads anymore:
Transportation funding is running on empty, forcing Congress to scramble to meet its next major deadline before the tank runs dry on May 31.
Both parties say they want to avoid a repeat of last month’s tense standoff over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. But the likelihood of an impasse increases with each day that passes without an infrastructure reauthorization bill, and transportation advocates warn that more brinkmanship would be disastrous.
“With just 80 days remaining until a partial government shutdown of highway programs, it’s time for tax writers in the House and Senate to put their cards on the table,” Association of Equipment Manufacturers spokesman Michael O’Brien said. “They would be well served to consider the many emerging proposals, which are proving to be both financially and politically viable.”
Here is the reality. First, states can still continue to pay for their own highway projects from whatever source of revenue they want to or have available, and state governments are inherently more responsive to funding highway projects where the actual need is greatest. In fact, the Federal Government’s highway funding program is the most well known pork feeding trough in all of DC and is the most widely abused and earmarked program that Congresscritters use to bribe people with their own tax money. What Congress is really concerned about is their ability to protect the vast amounts of waste, fraud, and crony capital to use to help their bids to get re-elected.
Second, what’s really at stake here is that members of Congress – in both parties – want to pay for their bribe money with your tax dollars. What’s all the worse is that they want to use tax money that will disproportionately affect the quality of life of low and middle income families:
The Equipment Manufacturers and other transportation groups have come out in favor of an increase in the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax, but many in Congress oppose asking drivers to pay more at the pump to help pay for road projects.
The gas tax has been the traditional source for federal transportation funding since its inception in the 1930s — predating the Interstate State Highway System by about 20 years. But it has struggled to keep pace with construction costs, as cars become more fuel-efficient.
Transportation advocates have said that a gas tax hike would be more politically viable now than it has been ever been in a generation, given rock-bottom gas prices.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) issued a proposal Thursday to nearly double the gas tax. If lawmakers find that politically untenable Pete Ruane, the group’s president, offered a potential deal sweetener.
“If our national leaders think they need to use budget gimmicks or ‘one-offs’ again to pass the surface transportation investment program the states need and the business community has been pleading for, then use those devices to provide a $90 tax rebate to middle and lower income tax filers to offset the cost to them of a 15 cent per gallon increase in the federal gas tax,” he said.
How helpful of these “trade groups,” that they explain to Congress the most politically palatable way to bilk us out of our money. And the worst part is that a number of Republicans – including the execrable [mc_name name=’Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’H000338′ ] – have publicly signed on to this idea.
There is no real crisis here at all. If the existing Federal gas tax is insufficient to fund the pork called for in the program, then Congress should reduce the amount of pork it doles out to the states under this slush fund. If the states find themselves short of needed projects they can go to their own voters and explain why more money is needed and where the tax funds should come from. There’s no reason that low income drivers in Ohio should have to pay higher gas taxes just so boondoggle projects benefiting wealthy construction companies in Illinois can go forward.
And any Republican who buys on to any sort of tax increase – of any kind – to quell this fake “crisis” should be drubbed out of Congress.