By on December 6, 2013

htf

Federal taxes on highway fuels haven’t been raised in 20 years. Because of inflation and better fuel economy, the Highway Trust Fund, into which those taxes flow and out of which transportation funding is dispersed, faces a shortfall. Standing next to labor, construction and business leaders, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) announced that he has introduced legislation that would raise the federal tax on gas to 33.4 cents per gallon and on diesel to 42.8 cents.

“Every credible independent report indicates that we are not meeting the demands of our stressed and decaying infrastructure system — roads, bridges and transit,” Blumenauer said. “Congress hasn’t dealt seriously with the funding issue for 20 years,” the congressman continued. “With inflation and increased fuel efficiency, especially for some types of vehicles, there is no longer a good relationship between what road users pay and how much they benefit. The average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993.”

The American Automobile Association supports the proposal. “Though it would be easier to simply kick the can down the road, today’s proposed legislation takes a necessary step forward in fostering debate on an important issue that many policymakers have been reluctant to address,” said Kathleen Bower, vice president of public affairs for AAA. “The country desperately needs additional funding for infrastructure and, for the moment, there is no better means than the fuel tax. The proposed increase is well overdue and in line with what most experts suggest would be appropriate.”

While states levy their own fuel taxes, about half of transportation funding in the U.S. comes from the federal government. The trust fund no longer brings in enough money to cover its obligations so to fund the federal transportation bill currently in effect, which expires in 2014, Congress had to move more than $50 billion in general tax revenue into the fund. Estimates cited by Rep. Blumenauer say that the trust fund will need $15 billion more each year if Congress decides to keep funding at current levels in the next transportation bill. He said that implementing a $0.15/gal tax over three years would raise approximately $170 billion in the next decade.

If the fuel taxes are not increased, Congress will have to choose between cutting transportation funding at the federal level and moving that tax burden to the states, or funding the Highway Trust Fund with general tax revenue.

The American Society of Civil Engineers said last month that the U.S. needs a $2.7 trillion investment in transportation and other infrastructure by 2020 to keep the United States competitive in the global economy. The Federal Highway Administration has estimated that just to keep our current infrastructure safe, highways and bridges will need more than $70.9 billion worth of repairs.

In the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has proposed changing the way taxes are levied on fuel, moving the tax to the wholesale level rather than at the pump.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

212 Comments on “House Democrat Introduces Bill to Raise Federal Gasoline Tax by 15 Cents Per Gallon...”


  • avatar
    ...m...

    …it’s a start: the trend to privatise public infrastructure in lieu of competent stewardship desperately needs to be reversed…

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    This whole local, state, and federal road funding thing needs to be redone, and not solely based on gallons of fuel. (And what about electrics?) Roads and bridges are part of commerce, part of everyone’s life, high-mile drivers, low-mile drivers, and non-drivers. A huge worry is the efficient use of money of course.

    For example, on a local level, The SE Michigan, Oakland County Road Commission has the gall to claim it costs $150/SF to fix suburban roads; I paid $3/SF for my 6″ thick driveway. Our tax money is just going to pay their pensions; they claim ‘no money’ when we ask for road fixes.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      You raise a good point. Perhaps if we eliminate “prevailing” wage legislation, and mandate quality control on all highway projects, we don’t need a tax hike at all.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      If your 6″ thick driveway had thousands of cars and semis traveling over it every day, it would last about three days.

      That’s like saying “Google is stupid for spending hundreds of millions on data centers! My PC cost $300!”

      • 0 avatar
        noxioux

        The math still doesn’t work. At his rate of $3 per square foot, you could put down 60″ of pavement and still be at a fraction of the aforementioned $150 per square foot.

        The sad fact is, our public institutions are simply not good stewards of our money. We all know this, whether we’re willing to admit it or not.

        And they should not be allowed to take ANY more until they can demonstrate a little responsibility and common sense with what they already have.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way. I know you want to think that $150/SF is all about evil union mooches, but it really isn’t. It’s about modern construction standards (current roads are many times more durable than what was built 75 years ago), environmental impact mitigation, acquisition of expensive land, safety requirements that cause everything to take up more space and materials, sharp increases in the cost of materials themselves, and increased health care costs for management and workers alike.

          Absolutely none of that applies to your driveway that was most likely built (even if you had a “good” contractor) using low-grade materials and undocumented workers picked up in front of Home Depot.

          • 0 avatar
            Detroit-X

            dal20402: My figures are about replacement of a 40% pot-holed suburban street (I have the actual estimate in hand). All the underbed is still there. All they have to do is strip the top layer or grind it a bit for a smooth top coat. $150/SF for that? That is idiocy. My-my, how you leap to defend it. Even if they just applied 6″ at $3/SF over the top of what we have now, with no other prep work it would be a huge improvement.

            And the workers who did my driveway at $3/SF were not illegals.

            Bottom Line: The government will waste the extra money raised through taxes.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            Sadly many believe that highways are just like their driveway. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Your driveway was constructed by a contractor scraping out the dirt, putting down a base, and then using the cheapest paving material they could get by with. Yes, I know someone on here has a driveway designed by a CalTech/MIT grad, you sir are the exception. Your highway was built with your state guiding the way to include many steps and inspections. It was surveyed and inspected. It was graded and inspected. The base was laid, graded, and inspected. The preparation for the concrete being poured was inspected; be it wire mesh, rebar, or a combination of the two. Finally, the concrete itself had to meet state specifications for at least strength and slump and probably had additives and admixtures added to it. Ice added to the concrete in hot weather? You bet. Everyone one of these steps involves a state engineer/inspector’s approval. I have seen them reject materials, concrete, asphalt, rebar, etc. Your driveway was probably poured without any of these steps/inspections/engineering and yet people are chagrined that public highways cost so much. Yeah, I used to build bridges for a living.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            $150/SF is still outrageous. The average cost for new construction of a house in the U.S. is right around $100/SF.

    • 0 avatar
      Type57SC

      If you have a contractor willing to do a concrete driveway with a 6″ depth (and presumably a 6″ pea gravel base) for $3/SF, please give me his number. I’d like to hire him.

      I redid mine for $9/SF including the curb a couple years ago and I’ve seen cracks starting. I can see how a road with lots of heavy traffic, sewers and large spans of bridges and other tricky things could cost lots more.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        My property has gravel only, so it was just level and pave. I had my first cracks appeared at about year 13, and they were very minor. As for the street and traffic, $20/SF still seems reasonable, but not $150. If you used 6″ of pea gravel, that’s pretty deep. What kept it in place, and from moving sideways under pressure? That could cause voids and cracks.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          The pea gravel should be compacted and level before you place your wire mesh and rebar. A 6 inch pour with at least 3500psi should be the bare minimum for a driveway. I always put in 5000psi concrete for out high end homes. Overkill? Maybe. You won’t have to worry about the fuel oil truck cracking your driveway.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I was going to say, $3/SF is crazy. As someone with a family concrete finishing business in SE Michigan, if my competitior is doing driveways for $3/SF, I might as well shut down now.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      Surprisingly, many people here have obviously been drinking the Government Kool-Aid. I’m not so easily fooled. For all the holy and necessary “government specs” people are preaching here for a top-coat, the simple reality is the government’s real standard is to say to us: “just live daily with the crap/embarrasing/damaging roads, because it costs too much to redo them to our awesome standards.” Really?

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        It could also be interpreted as “Properly designed and constructed infrastructure costs a lot of money. If the taxpayers aren’t willing to pay the money, then they won’t get the infrastructure.”

        Do you think the solution to degraded roadways is to repair/replace them with something that was built to a lower standard; perhaps that of a suburban driveway?

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-X

          Standards need to be applied correctly, wisely, efficiently. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Despite such alleged high standards for road paving, the County is perfectly fine with throwing a shovel full of patch in a half-puddled-pothole and driving away without even tamping it down.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        It has to pass the government inspectors test or it doesn’t get approved and put into use. I used to build bridges, everything that goes into a bridge has to be inspected and approved. What you call a “top coat” will not stand up to highway usage, Highways designed to handle thousands of cars and hundreds of tractor-trailers are engineered to much more critical specifications than your driveway. There are engineering guidelines and specifications, for highways. I could train cats to run bullfloats over a house’s drive way. That way my labor costs would be kibbles-n-bits. Your adamant insistence that highways shouldn’t cost more than what your driveway did will add more costs to the project because engineers will have to take extra time to explain the engineering and specifications involved. Oh you can call for a public hearing and the state engineers and engineers from the company building the project will bring out the PowerPoint presentations. The engineers will give in-depth presentations. If you are unwilling to recognize commonly acknowledged engineering specifications, or think they are a scam; I just give up.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Outstanding. Complete ignorance. You really think life is that simple that you can compare your driveway to a roadway.

        If this is true, why are you not starting your own firm putting down $3 sq ft top coats on state highways?? You would make a fortune. Don’t sit on the couch posting nonsense on the Internet, get in the game put your money where your mouth is that is how the free market works.

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-X

          I’m not talking about state highways, bridges, unions, or illegals. My example is a moderate-use suburb street. So there. I bet your trembling in anger right now.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            Why is so hard for you to grasp the concept that public construction projects are built to engineering standards? Engineers, inspectors, and other professionals are involved in these projects. You cling to your belief that all it takes is some semi-skilled concrete finishers to build a public road. I’m not trembling in anger; I’m slowly shaking my head.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            If followed your example I’d build you a house that used dryer venting to vent your toilets, extension cords to run your HVAC, and garden hoses for your pipes. Hey, it’s good enough and it would be much cheaper. That seems to be your argument/logic.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            There’s a difference between a driveway that is driven on a couple of times per day by a couple of passenger cars, and a public highway that has to carry thousands of vehicles per day, including heavy vehicles.

            There’s simply no comparison. You may as well directly compare the requirements for building a highrise with a treehouse.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            http://www.specs.fhwa.dot.gov/nhswp/

            Take a read. Select your state and material. Anybody who thinks this level of construction could be had for under $100 per ft-sq is woefully out of touch with modern construction. Even if you chose to use labor at half the normal rate, you still can’t build for two digits…

            Regarding the tax increase, it makes sense but there is one major problem: how do you keep revenue starved governments from robbing the highway fund? That is what happened in NY the last time they ran short of money..

          • 0 avatar
            Kinosh

            Detroit-X, infrastructure is commonly designed with 50 year timeframes in mind. And, in our democracy, the process of contractor selection, environmental assessments, and fiscal accountability must be open.

            There is no (and I mean none) comparison between your driveway and a public use street.

            My qualifications in saying this? I am an engineer-in-training who works in a factory, and if I suggested walking down to Ace hardware and replacing our heavily used and abused equipment with consumer-grade versions, I would be laughed at and then fired.

          • 0 avatar
            Detroit-X

            el scotto: The comment on ‘anger’ was a reply under/toward Power6, and not directed to you. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            I didn’t say anything about bridges illegals or unions…so who were you replying too? Eh anyways replace state highway with public street…when are you starting your new paving company?

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin

        Let me paraphrase what you just wrote:

        “Everybody is wrong except for me.”

        How very narcissistic of you. Do you think about what you say before you say it? You’re probably the same kind of person who thinks police, firefighters, and teachers are the enemy, and you can’t let them unionize or the terrorists will win.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Let me use an analogy. I have a 40$ espresso maker at home. Restaurants can easily spend 4-5 K on an espresso maker. Both make great coffee. One is designed to make thousands of cups of coffee over many years. The other makes an occasional cup of coffee and is disposable. You pay for intended use.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Lando, unwashed pea gravel was compacted by a guy running a hand-held compactor; like a jackhamer but with a pad instead of a spike. Prep driveway one day, pour the next. In my market their was a race to the bottom with concrete finishers. Lot of guys wanted paid that day for doing a job. It’s hard work and I didn’t mind.

        • 0 avatar
          lando

          I don’t mean to be critical, and it will probably be fine due to the light usage… but pea gravel really shouldn’t be used in such an application instead of crushed gravel because it does not truly compact and may cause settling issues.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            Lando, no worries. I hated working residential concrete and we usually had subs do it. Low end houses were done by another contractor and 2-3 $100 day guys. Mid and high end work went to a friend of mine who specialized in concrete work.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Sure ignore electric vehicles.
    All this does it give the Feds more money to waste on expenditures that don’t include infrastructure.
    Besides I can get along just fine with roads in current shape.

    **How much more money would we have for infrastructure if we just did away with EV credits, and allow their merits alone to sell them?

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      “Besides I can get along just fine with roads in current shape.”

      If you live an area with a lot of pot holed roads – you do pay an additional tax called “wear and tear” on your vehicle. I’m thinking of a city like New Orleans, where your car gets jiggled and jolted to an old heap before its time.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Honestly pot holes are really rare to see here, and if they aren’t taken care of in a week usually some individual fills it with concrete mix or gravel themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Another issue is that roads/bridges don’t stay in their “current shape.” They continually get worse. Overall, we aren’t doing enough to keep up with all that degradation.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      We could factor in the cost of the military expenditures used in protecting and securing oil distribution networks. Feet don’t fail me now.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Let’s not worry about EVs. If we get enough of them on the roads, all the money we save by not using our military to protect our imported foreign oil interests can be used to maintain our transportation infrastructure.

      And not your paying anywhere near the real/actual cost to put that gallon of gas in your Hummer, so stop whining about EV credits.

      • 0 avatar
        Shamwow

        And where do you think most the countries electricity comes from?

        • 0 avatar
          lando

          Which country? Coal, nuclear, natural gas, coal, geo-thermal, hydro-electric, COAL. Basically anything which is not as energy dense as gasoline or diesel and benefit from a stationary power generator.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        That argument makes no sense, I’m paying for fuel that is taxed what more than 4 times before it gets to me? Damn right I’m not paying the true cost, otherwise I wouldn’t be paying 3.20 a gallon.

        Do you not realize how very little oil we get from the Middle East, or have your talking points so desparately old you hope readers won’t notice?

        • 0 avatar
          ClutchCarGo

          The issue isn’t how much oil WE get from the Middle East, it’s how much oil the WORLD gets from the ME. Oil is sold on a global market, curtailing supply anywhere in the world would result is a sharp increase in price, and domestic producers will seel oil to the highest bidder.

      • 0 avatar
        lando

        We are not protecting imported foreign oil interest as much as we are protecting global stability in the most efficient manner possible. As pointed out by Hummer, the U.S. no longer gets much of our oil from overseas. In fact, last year we became a net energy exporter.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Easy, just stop raiding road tax revenues for other things, and roll back existing subsidies (both corporate and military) for oil, and use that money on transportation.

      The feds have no business in having a federal registration for vehicles, and thus should only get excise tax on fuels. If states are to move from a gas tax to a per-mile tax, then they should do that as an odometer count at registration time, and do it for everybody.

      • 0 avatar
        360joules

        “Used for transportation” Bow-tie Blumenauer wants that money to go to choo-choos. He’s a light rail advocate & has an investment stake in a streetcar manufacturer. If the money went roads & especially bridges, I’d be more supportive.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Maybe they should quit poaching the excise tax for non infrastructure related projects, and put it all towards roads as 40% of the revenue goes elsewhere.

    Then they wouldn’t have to ask for more citing “teh roadz is crumbalin”. I know, it’s just easier to plead poverty and ask for more rather than cut out the shenanigans.

    • 0 avatar
      cartunez

      Exactly Danio.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Fuel taxes collected in the US are lower than what is spent on roads. I’m pretty sure you and I have gone over this before.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Yeah, at the state tax level when Oregon was talking about an EV tax. It got muddled up when you brought up the fact that the Federal tax was brought in as a revenue generating tax that doesn’t contribute 100% of it’s proceeds to roads.

        A shortfall is clearly a problem, raising the tax might be needed. But I would prefer that all of the taxes collected already go directly to the cause first.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The first federal gas tax was imposed during the Hoover administration in order to reduce the budget deficit. It had nothing to do with roads.

          In much of the world, fuel taxes are used to encourage reduced consumption.

          There is no universal “cause” for fuel taxes. They do whatever we want them to do.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            The stated need here is money for road infrastructure. That would be the “cause” in this case. Spending revenue generated by the “Highway Trust Fund” on highways is what I want them to do.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            That’s your cause. Don’t presume that you speak for everyone.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Oh, did I? I certainly don’t believe I speak for those who’s earmarked projects might suffer if all the revenue from the Highway Trust Fund was spent on highways.

            The thread topic is about the fuel taxes and road budgets. Stating opinions on possible solutions is relevant to the converstation. You’re just being argumentative.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The point remains that fuel taxes do whatever we want them to do.

            What you want them to do is out of step with what they actually do. You’re free to disagree, but you weren’t appointed to be anyone else’s ambassador.

          • 0 avatar
            probert

            I think the taxes are federally mandated to go towards transportation needs. But if you have a better idea for repairing the decay please let us know.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            Sure, get the federal government out of it all together and let the states deal with it…

          • 0 avatar
            Kinosh

            All of the gas tax money goes to infrastructure projects, primarily highways and bridges, an extremely small slice to transit (3%-ish), and peanuts to bike/pedway projects.

            You should not have the states deal with the revenue. The system is national in nature, and the fighting between states (move here, our gas is cheeeeeper!) would result in a race to the bottom and a worse funding situation.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Here in Texas we want good roads to get us quickly from the suburbs to the city center or around it, but don’t want to pay for the convenience with gasoline taxes.

    So, enter a plethora of toll roads over the past decade properly operated by whatever multinational corporations.

    There is just one problem. Toll roads are more expensive in the long run due to forever and a day financing, plus the need for a middleman to operate the roadway.

    While I may be paying a little more than 50 cents a gallon currently for federal and state taxes on gasoline to drive 20 miles or so, the cost to use toll roads runs $2.00 to $3.00 for the same number of miles.

    Lastly, the money collected by toll roads doesn’t flow into the road fund which could be used to repair or replace obsolete bridges or infrastructure on other roadways in the state.

    Just a two cent observation – but I’d rather have a fuel tax and not have to ante up to a corporate middleman.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Areas with lots of snow are much more prone to these problems, so why not just do a latitude and elevation tax, so the ones who live in areas that need the
      Most money pay the most.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Or just put it on each individual state to handle all their own road maintenance. Eliminate the Federal tax, let the states take over where they need to.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Exactly.

        • 0 avatar
          sirwired

          If the states bear the sole burden for transportation maintenance, states will neglect routes primarily used for interstate (as opposed to intrastate) travel.

          The feds kicking in money from federal fuel taxes to support interstate commerce seems to be a pretty reasonable thing to do.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I don’t think they would. It’s still in a state’s best economic interest to support interstate travel, as having the best and most well maintained routes ensures more people travel to or pass through the state, thus paying more fuel and sales tax.

            Some might see the issue differently than others.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            What people do, and what is in their best interest do not always intersect. We see that through mountains of examples of fiscal irresponsibility.

            I have no problem with universal rules that force certain standards that are in the public’s best interests & are affordable. Because of the conceptual problem of unfunded mandates, I also don’t have much of a problem with (partial) federal funding.

          • 0 avatar
            cdotson

            Agreed danio. States neglect interstate routes to their detriment. If you look closely you will notice that industries that ship goods prefer to locate in close proximity to route intersections that maximize their transport options. Just in the mid-Atlantic region with which I am familiar you can notice large developments (relative to their surroundings) at the intersections of I81 & I70 in MD/WV, I81 & I77 in VA, I77 & I85/I40 in NC, I95 corridor from DC thru NJ, etc. Without viable options for the transport of goods businesses and industry won’t be developing, and without business and industry residents and tax revenues disappear.

          • 0 avatar
            sirwired

            Danio,

            For example, in AZ, I-40 passes through the entire state without going near a single city bigger than Flagstaff. Almost all the traffic (and nearly 100% of the roadway wear) will be caused by long-haul trucks hauling loads through the state. (If you have loads bound for Phoenix or Tucson, there are better routes.)

            Since AZ citizens receive little benefit from the road, and outside of truck stops, it attracts little commerce to the state itself, where’s the incentive to keep it at Interstate standards? If you have a limited bucket of transportation money to dole out (fuel taxes, general fund subsidies, whatever) I’m going to put my dollars where my votes are, which is in roads my citizens use.

        • 0 avatar
          probert

          Or- just have everyone contribute to the common good for a small price – still have the lowest fuel rates in the industrial world, and have better roads. Wow! Let’s call it a fuel tax.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            Who will care more about local roads? Local governments or officials in a centralized area, elected from somewhere else?

  • avatar

    This is also a very regressive tax. As Hummer stated, it ignores electric vehicles as well as hybrids and just generally newer cars. Poorer folks own older vehicles and apples to apples a 20 year old family mover isn’t as fuel friendly as a brand new $25K model. Just a odd “solution” from a Dem. Obviously motorist need to be paying for this, but a fuel tax is outdated and efficiency trends are going to exaggerate this quickly. Which is a good thing, but we need real solutions. Oh, we’re talking about Washington?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      THe thing with EVs is, the Government is trying to agressively push these vehicles into service by massively subsidizing their purchase. Making them pay their share of road maintenance might discourage some buyers…we wouldn’t want that now…

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        If I paid my ‘fair share’ of gas tax based on my Leaf’s fuel economy, it would cost me about $44/year in Pennsylvania.

        I’m OK with that, but I’m sure that’s not ‘fair enough’ for liberals, and it won’t discourage any buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      “Just a odd “solution” from a Dem.”

      Raising taxes by a Democrat, Barbara Boxer no less, an odd solution? You got to be kidding.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Exactly, they’re promoting fuel efficiency and then crying about no money from gas, ironic much?
      Remove fuel tax find a better system, taxing fuel is not the answer.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        IMO, the best solutions are set up the same was as a good diet or portfolio, i.e., diversification. Fuel taxes are a part of a healthy, well-balanced tax policy. But they are only a part.

        Other parts might be useage-based (tolls), registration-based, purchase-based (like taxes on tires) or even energy-based. This type of approach does a better job catching oddities from falling through the cracks (like EVs not paying fuel taxes) and increases stability (so more efficient cars don’t dramatically reduce tax revenue).

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        “Remove fuel tax find a better system, taxing fuel is not the answer.”

        The most sensible alternative then is to tax road usage, which would likely require tracking vehicles on the road. Most people would find this unacceptable.

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      Dear Earl is my congressman. He has been largely unopposed for a long time and the proposal of this absurdity makes clear he no longer speaks for a majority of his constituents. Why can’t the trucking industry be taxed for the damage they do to our roadways? Now they have three trailer semi’s going through most states. Calculating minimum 60k pounds per trailer, they do the equivalent of almost 70 trips in my daily driver. While equity is being pondered, why do we allow studded tires? They are the most egregious road-killers in the northern states. Surely reasonable people can agree these are not cost-benefit sensible. Now that we have a stranglehold on world financial markets, we should leverage cheap money into a wholesale rebuilding of our complete infrastructure. Everything. Water, electric, transportation, wireless – everything. The world’d desire for American debt instruments makes it possible to borrow for virtually zero-percent. We will regret not maxing out our Treasury credit card when inflation finally makes T-bills pay again. If your neighbor would loan you a million dollars-interest free, and you can get 1% by re-packaging, why wouldn’t you? This is certainly not the time for regressive austerity. It hasn’t worked in Europe, and they have -essentially, thrown their kids under the bus. Middle class jobs are non-existent. Building America is always a good long-term bet. Win-win.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Or we could take all the money we currently give to the likes of Hamiid Karzai to build roads in his country and build roads here in the US. That would be a start.

    No one is going to vote to increase the gas tax with a congressional election looming unless another bridge falls into a river at rush hour. Gas Prices are too much of a hot button issue with voters.

    Im not sure much legislation proposed by house democrats makes it to the house floor these days anyway. File this bill under D.O.A.

  • avatar
    18726543

    I always cringe when law makers start talking about gas tax increases because you don’t just pay it at the pump, you pay it at the grocery store, you pay it at the hardware store, you pay it in retail establishments, and so-on and so-forth. Shipping companies use a lot of fuel and you can bet they aren’t going to take one for the team when gas prices go up. The end user always picks up the difference.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      One way to prevent that is to only incrase the gas tax but not the diesel tax (since most shipping uses diesel). However, it’s the big diesels that cause the most damage to roads.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      That’s one of the reasons that a lot of people think that the ideal tax would be a crbon tax offset by a reduction or elimination of the income tax.

      Taxing something discourages it in most cases…. And un-discouraging employment while encouraging the *efficient* use of fuel sounds like a market-based double win to me…

      If you disagree, free to call me names. But, if you want to change my mind, I challenge you to come up with a better idea that addresses all of the same concerns.

      • 0 avatar
        lando

        Luke42,

        I actually agree with you, not because it would decrease carbon, but because a carbon tax is an exercise tax which is based on consumption and would get the government out of the peoples lives… which is why the carbon tax will always be in ADDITION to income tax. You would also probably have to do some sort of pre-bate based on the tax of poverty level income to avoid the worst of the regressive tax aspects of such a scheme.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I hate the idea of paying more in taxes as much as anyone, but when you think about it, increasing the tax on gasoline might be a good idea. The Europeans pay about double what we do for a gallon of gas, because of high taxes. But as a result, their vehicles get about double the mileage that ours do, so it evens out.

    And if our cars could get double the mileage, then we wouldn’t be dependent on oil imports. Which would mean we wouldn’t have to keep going to war at such huge cost in $ and soldiers lives to keep the oil flowing.

    Frantz makes a good point that raising the tax on gasoline is regressive. So maybe offset the tax with income tax cuts targeted at those who would pay more for tax. Then, people are paying lower taxes, and, as they replace their vehicles over time with efficient ones, we are saving even more money.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      US truck sales still constitute about half of all vehicles sold, despite the fact that gas prices have doubled in the last decade. Americans will pay anything for a gallon of gas.

      And please, name a war in which Americans fought ‘to keep the oil flowing’. This popular and convenient meme just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        Gulf War 1, or do you really believe that we were so appalled by Saddam’s disregard for Kuwati sovereignty that we just had to intervene militarily?

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          We were saving the incubator babies!

          http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0906/p25s02-cogn.html

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @ClutchCarGo: Yes, I do believe that. In case you haven’t noticed, since 1945 the United Nations has basically outlawed border changes.

          The ability to take land via warfare no longer exists, with few exceptions (Israel and Vietnam come to mind, but Vietnam could be deemed a ‘reunification’, and Israel’s disputed expansion was to protect it from annihilation). Otherwise, land grabs are taboo now – a policy I disagree with.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Devil’s advocate:

    We should not raise fuel taxes, but we need to mandate much more efficient road construction by 2017. Road graders should be able to achieve 5 gallons per mile, and asphalt mixers 10 gallons per mile (excluding the oil used to create the asphalt itself). I personally won’t stand for all of this outdated, stinky, smoke-belching road construction equipment.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> we need to mandate much more efficient road construction by 2017.
      We’ve already started that in Massachusetts, but accomplished better efficiency by improving construction techniques. An example was the “Fast 14″ project where 14 freeway bridges were replaced in 10 weekends using new construction techniques.

      http://93fast14.dot.state.ma.us/

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        Awesome. I think that half of what we can do with road construction today came from The Big Dig :D

        Necessity, mother, invention, etc

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Thank You, very, very cool.

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Mass has been on a bridge building spree.

        Glad they are doing the right thing!

        CT seems to be following this on a bridge I’ve seen recently. It’s almost done and they only started a good 2 – 3 months ago. It is a small local street that goes over the interstate but really impressive. In comparison a bridge near my house took 1+ year to rebuild the thing.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    It already costs me 50 bucks to fill up what GM called a compact car, and instead of raising the minimum wage so young people like me can have more money in our pockets, the government wants to take more of my money with higher gas prices and food prices.

    Well f***k THAT.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Raising minimum wage also leads to higher gas and food prices.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Fair enough, though all of these issues could be avoided if the 1 percent actually had to pay some serious taxes on their bloated hoarded wealth.

        But noooo, we can’t have the billionaires paying a fair tax on their billions, that would…uh…hurt commerce, I guess? I dunno the gubmint rationalization for low taxes on the top earners in the country, the government says all sorts of things to rationalize their actions.

        I’m all for hurting the super rich, because, well, I get hurt by things like income tax and higher food and gas prices many, many times worse than they ever would.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          I’m not saying the system is fair, and honestly don’t want to delve into it, but remember the people that promote that ideology have a lot of money pushing it.
          To take every cent and I mean everything from everyone making over a million dollars a year, then take every company on the stock market and liquidate, etc etc, wouldn’t be enough money to fund the government for a full year. Let that sink in.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          If you look at it another way, billionaires contribute more taxes individually in one year than most people will in a lifetime. So technically, they put in a lot more to the social pot than they take out. Thank a billionaire.

          Also, peole don’t become billionaires by hoarding wealth. They become wealthy by investing their capital. When they invest their capital, it allows growing companies to hire people like you.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Precisely. You can’t hoard your wealth and grow it, and you can’t grow it without spending and paying taxes.

            If the game is unfair, then do something to fix the game, don’t just fiddle with the score. Raising taxes is just a lazy response by pols who don’t want to work. It’s a scam. They write the rules, if the rules are screwed up, no amount of money will fix them.

        • 0 avatar
          E46M3_333

          Have you ever considered how complicated it would be to tax wealth? Assets can be sheltered and/or converted to things which would be extremely difficult to value.

          • 0 avatar
            SomeGuy

            That is too logical, get out of here with that nonsense.

            It is like people want the governement to dive directly in the bank accounts of these individuals and do a “MIDDLE CLASS WEALTH ADJUSTMENT” and then what? Credit our bank accounts? Take it in as government revenue?

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Shhhhh. Don’t point out the distinction between wealth and income. We don’t want to introduce facts into a discussion on politics.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            We already tax assets — surely, you’ve heard of property taxes.

            Apparently, it’s not that tough to do.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            The govt knows what land you own. They know what vehicles you register. Those types of property are easily taxed.

            But do they know how much cash you keep in your sock drawer? Do you want them to know how much cash you keep in your sock drawer? What privacy issues arise from releasing such info?

            While in theory such things are ‘easy,’ there is potential for stiring a hornets nest.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            Right. Which means you really don’t own anything, but are renting it from the government. I would much prefer an exercise tax instead of income and property tax for exactly these reasons.

        • 0 avatar
          SomeGuy

          Wow. How uninformed. Seeing as the 1% pay the most taxes, donate the most money to charity, and create the most jobs this is a really empty argument.

          Also, you will find out your life will be a happier one when you quit harping over the success of others and just worry about yourself.

          We in America are richer than 99% of the world, even the 99% here who whine about the 1%.

      • 0 avatar
        MPAVictoria

        No it doesn’t.
        http://backtofullemployment.org/2013/01/18/minimum-wage-hikes-do-not-cause-inflation/

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Clearly not a business owner. It does, in spite of how it’s spun by people who don’t want to believe it.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            Hmmmm. On one hand we have an actual academic study backed up by references and on the other we have a random internet commenter. Who to trust?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Generally speaking, inflation is typically a byproduct of wage growth.

            However, there are so few workers in the US who earn mimimum wage that it could almost certainly be increased without doing much of anything to the inflation rate. It’s not as if paying someone another couple bucks of hour would fuel a bidding war for scarce resources.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            You need outside links to understand the basic economics of cost?

            If you need proof, start a business, hire some people, and play with their wages while trying to keep the cost of your goods fixed. Just try it and see how the leger makes out.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            Personal opinion is not fact danio. No matter how much you want it to be.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I have my own business.

            What business do you own, Danio? I thought that you were a Chrysler employee.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            One can hold many titles. I also have an automotive related side venture.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            On one hand we have an opinion backed by lots of economists, and on the other we have a link to an obviously biased website. Everyone can decide for themselves.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            If raising minimum wage has no side effects, why don’t we pay everyone a hundred dollars an hour? We’ll all be rich!

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Why does anyone exercise when the Bataan Death March killed people?

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            If so many people get paid the minimum wage, then what is the point of raising it? And for the jobs which are actually paid minimum wage, will anyone actually hire someone once the wage is mandated to be higher? Who pays for that increase in pay? What is a historical example of an increase of minimum wage actually helping an economy?

            So because the liberal welfare state has become so (relatively) generous that the minimum wage would need to be nearly doubled for it to make economic sense for a person to get a job. It then of course falls to businesses to somehow find the money to pay workers more money, even though they are not providing any additional value for that increased wage.

            Of course the money for that new higher wage will come from a combination of fewer workers or increased cost to consumers. Meanwhile the consumer and business owners who are expected to carry the increased wage burden will still have to pay the taxes to fund the welfare benefits that compete with wages in a never ending upward spiral.

            And that’s going to create economic growth?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            95% of the work force earns more than the minimum wage.

            There is no comparison between increasing wages by a grand or so per year for the bottom 10% or so of the population, and paying a minimum of $200,000 per year to everyone. Only an extremist would think that these two very different positions are comparable in any way.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            Despite ignoring the points made by everyone else: Why aren’t those people already paid more if 95% of the work force gets paid more?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Between the strawman arguments and effort to change the subject, this is really turning out to be a delightful thread.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            It’s interesting how heated people get over this stuff.

            Some common sense:

            If you run a company where you employ minimum wage earners, your costs will be affected. But what businesses are significantly affected by that? Fast food, retail, etc. So, it’s a perfectly fair conclusion that those types of businesses will either adjust their prices, be more selective in hiring (hire less, only hire people who are worth $15/hr, etc.), have a higher failure rate, etc. As noted, the money to pay them has to come from somewhere, and unless the ‘rich’ are your customers, it’s not going to come from them no matter how much you want it to.

            OK, so far, businesses that aren’t heavily dependent on domestic, warm-body labor aren’t that affected, so they are unlikely to need to raise prices, so the conclusion that big-picture inflation won’t be significantly affected seems reasonable.

            But let’s go back to those businesses that would be affected: fast food, retail, etc. Let’s assume they do raise prices to cover their increased labor costs. Whom does that most affect? My guess would be low-income earners, particularly those making minimum wage. It’s certainly a bit of chasing your tail, but the increase in earnings should be greater than the increase in costs, resulting in a net benefit for those who still have their job. It could be a net negative for those making a bit over the minimum wage since they likely would see no increase in earnings, but would have a similar living cost profile as those making minimum wage. It’s also a significant negative for anyone who loses their job. It is therefore reasonable to think that much of the increased cost to pay a higher minimum wage comes from the pockets of the poor and the upper middle class who hire them. I’m not sure if that results in a better, more-fair society.

            But there’s even more to it. The higher legal floor for labor creates a driving force for illegal labor and outsourcing. We already know that there are people who are willing to work for less than the current minimum wage, particularly in construction and on farms because even that’s better than they can get in their home country. Illegal labor & outsourcing keep costs down, but also doesn’t put any more money in the wallets of the working poor.

            But for me, all that’s neither here nor there. I personally think when you buy a product, you should pay what it’s worth. If the price is more than that, don’t buy it. If a worker has no skills worth $15/hr, then they shouldn’t be paid that. If that’s minimum wage, then they shouldn’t be hired.

            Thus, IMO, we shouldn’t focus on minimum wage, but rather how to make everyone’s skillset more valuable, so that they are worth being paid a living wage.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            (a) Only a small percentage of the workforce would be impacted by a minimum wage increase

            (b) Wages don’t comprise a majority of the costs of a typical retail business (the other costs are greater)

            (c) Higher costs can’t necessarily be passed onto the customer, thanks to supply and demand; the seller will probably eat some or all of the increase in the form of reduced profit.

            Combine those factors, and inflation is not a likely outcome. The more likely outcomes are a modest increase in workforce participation rates (the higher wages will encourage some people to join the workforce), combined with slightly higher unemployment rates among this class of workers (some businesses won’t be able to pay the higher wages.)

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            Of course the seller could go out of business and everyone gets burnt… or they find a way to do without the minimum wage employee. Case in point? Hostess Cakes. Again, if raising the minimum wage was so great, why don’t they raise it to $100/hr and why wasn’t the last raise in minimum wage sufficient?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “if raising the minimum wage was so great, why don’t they raise it to $100/hr and why wasn’t the last raise in minimum wage sufficient?”

            That was a ridiculous question the first time that you asked it. It hasn’t improved with age.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            lando, each time there is a raise in the minimum wage, landlords raise the rent.

            We have done it for all our properties.

            Our very same properties that rented for $400/mo in 1993 now rent for $1400-$1500/mo. And there is a never-ending supply of people looking for a place to live.

            The more the minimum wage gets raised, the more the cost of rice and rent goes up accordingly.

            Even if they raise the minimum wage to $100/hr.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            highdesertcat, that was my point. The people who want to raise the minimum wage argue that doing so has no second or third order effects negative effects. If that was true, why not raise it to the point that everyone is rich? Of course 100 dollars an hour is absurd, but so is any mandated minimum which attempts to circumnavigate market forces. If this wasn’t true, they won’t have to keep raising the minimum wage. And even though the minimum wage as not been recently raised directly, the cost of hiring employees has gone up due to recent regulation and laws. Which has resulted in a loss of, at the very least, full time jobs. A good barometer is WalMart, which manages to cut the average number of minimum wage workers per store every year.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            PCH, if $100 is a ridiculous idea, how about $20? The reality is that the hyperbole of the question is illustrative, as is the lack of a cogent answer from 99.9% of the raise wages camp.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The proposal is to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour.

            If you want to understand the impact of such a proposal, then it should be analyzed on the basis of it being increased to $9. Not to $20, $100, or $10 bazillion, but $9.

            These strawman arguments are ridiculous. Just (try to) analyze what is being proposed, instead of something far different that you pulled out of thin air.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            lando, that old saying, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” is still apropos.

            It even works in the case of the minimum wage. People who don’t understand that or otherwise cannot accept that generally see the light once they achieve the goal they desire. Prime example is all the young people who voted to put O*bama in office. I heard or read somewhere that over 75% of those young people now want to recall him because of the damage he has done to their lifestyle and pocketbooks.

            People have to be careful what they wish for because they may not like it once they get it.

            As far as Wal-Mart is concerned, the trend seems to be to put self-checkout stations in all the stores. They recently put in 10 stations in our Supercenter and they are so popular that there is always a waiting line to self-checkout.

            I love it! I can get out of the store faster by doing the checkout myself instead of waiting on a slow-moving cashier to get the job done.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            Highdesertcat,

            The other quote I like is “Democracy is the theory that people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

            Pch101,

            And your answer is the common one from statist: “You extension of an idea to its logical conclusion is absurd. We are only talk about the perfect amount. And the reason it never worked in the past is because the perfect amount wasn’t chosen.” California has recently raised the minimum wage to $10.10, it will be interesting to see how that experiment works out. Or, when it fails to improve conditions, will it not count because it wasn’t the “perfect amount”?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Anyone who thinks that a $9 minimum wage would have the economic impact of a $100 minimum wage is a fool. To claim otherwise just establishes ones credentials as a mindless windbag.

          • 0 avatar
            lando

            I am sure people were saying the same thing when the minimum wage was set at $.25 per hour in 1933. And yet here we are, having a discussion about raising it to $9. Which, is a larger difference in magnitude then comparing $9 to $100. In the past, raising the minimum wage hasn’t worked, short term or long term. In the short term it puts pressure on businesses which can’t pass the cost onto customers or it raises the price of services and goods for customers. It encourages automation and moving jobs overseas, which results in less jobs in the U.S. And eventually, it causes inflation, further eroding the buying power of the middle class. But sure, let’s prove once again it doesn’t work for the current generation.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            PCH, so are you willing to admit that raising the minimum wage to 9 could cause problems, but that you think it likely won’t? That’s really what the 100 dollar comment is raised for. The raise the wage camp, which now apparently must control the discussion and call their opponents babies never wants to even admit that there is an amount that would be too high. If you guys could admit that, maybe the other side could be less dramatic?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’ve already told you what I expect would happen with a $9 minimum wage.

            That outcome bears no resemblance whatsoever to what would happen with a $100 minimum wage, and anyone who would directly compare the two is a buffoon.

            On this thread, I haven’t once offered an opinion as to whether or not it should be increased. I merely pointed out what outcomes are likely, and that inflation is not a likely outcome.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “I would much prefer an exercise tax instead of income and property tax”

            You are worried about the possible economic effects of raising the minimum wage to $9, but you are an advocate of replacing the income tax and property tax with excise taxes?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            lando, “Democracy is the theory that people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

            I had forgotten about that one. Thanks for brining it back into usage.

            It is the sage wisdom of these old sayings that should remind us that America always gets exactly what it deserves, because we vote for it!

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I have not read much to convince me that raising the minimum wage is superior to expanding the EITC and other refundable credits.

          Of course, somehow, paying a high amount of tax has become a virtue for both major political ideologies in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      cartunez

      Raising minimum wage to $15 an hr will put I would rough guess over 50% of the current people in those positions out of work. No why in hell would I as a business owner pay 30K a yr to unskilled labor.

      • 0 avatar

        @PCH

        I thought you mentioned you were in private equity. Do you have your own firm? Or have you moved on?

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I think the people aiming for $15/hr are shooting for the moon, but an increase to $9 an hour (which has been proposed at least once), while definitely not enough to cure the massive inequality problem, would certainly help.

        I don’t want the world, I just want a few bucks more for my work. Is that really so wrong?

        • 0 avatar
          lando

          There is absolutely nothing wrong about it, but centralized, forced inequality solutions generally cause more issues than are fixed. It is also generosity with other people’s resources. A discussion on paying higher wages is much different than mandated minimum wages. Since this is “thetruthaboutcars.com”, Henry Ford raised the pay of his employees because he determined it was better for the company to do so; primarily to reduce employee turnover. In practice, raising wages reduced overall costs and make Ford more competitive. If a person, especially if an U.S. citizen, is making minimum wage, the first question so be “WHY am I making minimum wage?” Not, “How can my employer be forced to pay me more (and encouraged to automate my job or send it to China)?”

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I feel the answer to that question may be “because that’s all I’m worth to *name of corporation here*.”

            Even paying such a low wage, I feel many of these corporations would gladly cut out even that fairly small cut of their absurd profits (I guarantee hourly employee wages add up to less than 10 percent of Wal-Mart’s total profit each year, and many of these retail stores, Wal-Mart included, hire as few full-time employees as possible) by replacing all cashiers with automated registers and any other ways they could think of to not have to pay people to work.

            But I know this isn’t The Truth About Economic Troubles, so I’ll stop now.

          • 0 avatar
            bikegoesbaa

            Both of your feelings are absolutely correct.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @NoGoYo:

          When you account for inflation, minimum wage is about the same now as it was 30 years ago. This means it has just as much buying power today as it did then. $9 would put things where they were in 1968 (the peak buying power for minimum wage).

          http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/rants/minwage2007/graph.png

          The reason you don’t receive a few more bucks for your work is that your work isn’t worth more money to your employer. It’s also the same reason my employer doesn’t give me merit-less raises.

          Be careful what you wish for: it’s easy to be replaced by someone cheaper if your pay outgrows your utility.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Nogoyo,
          The way our system works is that if you can provide value worth more than a minimum wage, which I don’t doubt you do, you only get that extra money by getting someone to pay it. This is the biggest lesson people don’t learn because they fail to realize they aren’t just a person, they are a one person service company. Employers are SUPPOSED to pay as little as they can for labor services. employees have to sell themselves as worth more.

          Choosing who to work for and with is, for most people, more important than how well they do their work. Anyone who takes what they get for years on end and then gets bitter about it has only themselves to blame. They failed to the hard work to get the better deal. Don’t like salesmen? Too bad. You are one. Deal.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Yeah, that’s why I’m trying to get out of my current job…this particular store pays veterans only about 50 cents an hour more than new employees, I have no future there.

            I’m getting some schooling, but gasoline and food and recreation don’t magically become free just because you’re in college.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @cartunez: +1

        If I was forced to pay $30k to unskilled labor, I’d increase the job requirements to include a college degree, or simply have fewer expensive workers do more work.

        @NoGoYo: That’s how raising minumum wage kills the job market.

        • 0 avatar
          Kinosh

          I really dislike the line that increasing minimum increases unemployment.

          Assuming you’re running a business properly, you cannot get by without any of the employees you currently have. I know that no one where I work is paid to twiddle their thumbs.

          In the short run, demand for labor at the low-end of the economy is pretty inelastic.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “In the short run, demand for labor at the low-end of the economy is pretty inelastic.”

            It depends upon the industry and prevailing conditions. If the costs can’t be passed onto the customer and the profit margins aren’t high enough to absorb the hit, then it starts making more sense to not produce at all.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Dealing with a lot of business owners I can think of lots of reasons raised minimum wages will reduce demand for labor. The reality is that lots of low end employees keep their jobs because firing them is more trouble than leaving them in the job. It’s also easier in some cases to hire extra people rather than train and motivate less people to do the same job.

            I suspect the real victims are people with no experience at all. Even if no jobs are lost, fewer of the zero experience jobs will be created because you will have more bosses doing math on the hire and looking for other solutions.

            Also, Taco Bell already has explored more automation and likely knows the job losses at almost any given wage increase. At some point, it makes sense that all the tacos get made by machines.

          • 0 avatar
            69firebird

            Hell no.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    No.

    This should be left to the states. As is, the federal government is just going to take the money and distribute it where they see fit; most likely, on roads.

    This should be a state thing, not a federal thing. The Federal government shouldn’t have their hands so deep in the economies pockets to redistribute where they see fit. If you live in Georgia, do you want your taxes to go pay for roads in Michigan? Or vice verse. Actually, it’ll be more like if you like in Georgia, do you want to subsidize the healthcare of some bum in (anywhere)?

    • 0 avatar
      MPAVictoria

      You realize that trade requires infrastructure? How does the guy in Georgia expect to get his peaches to New York without well maintained roads or trains?

      • 0 avatar
        drewtam

        Freight railroads are privately owned, and makes up the vast majority of US railway development and investment.

        • 0 avatar
          MPAVictoria

          They were created with massive federal subsidies though. And the interstate is very much not privately owned.

          • 0 avatar
            nrd515

            Created yes, they haven’t received any real subsidies for longer than any of us have been alive. They were pretty much screwed until 1980 or so, when totally ridiculous regulation was removed that was enacted when RRs had a monopoly. The result is the rail system of today, vastly better than the one that existed 40 years ago. Highways are still highly subsidized, but railroads aren’t.

      • 0 avatar
        lando

        And Georgia would let their source of tax revenue dry up for lack of infrastructure? I am sure the Federal knows what is better for the Georgia peach farmer than the farmer himself.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      For a very long time Michigan paid more into the road fund than it got back out. We’d like to see some of come back to us, actually…

      • 0 avatar
        Kinosh

        No.

        http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/10/22/the-dangers-of-the-myth-that-states-give-more-than-they-get-for-transpo/

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          This quote is directly from the page you cite: “Even more telling: Looking at the cumulative ratios going all the way back to 1956, only five states — Indiana, Michigan, North and South Carolina, and Texas — have recouped less than 100 percent of the gas taxes they’ve sent to Washington. And those only by the barest margins.”

          My state (Michigan) is STILL a donor state, albeit by a very small amount now. Although the same website mentions that the feds have been returning more money back to the states than they have been sending in. I think this is only due to the recent financial troubles, and will end soon. It seems to me that it’s not sustainable to continue to do this for the long-term.

  • avatar
    NN

    The main issue may be that we pay ridiculous amounts of money to to get our roadways done. As Detroit-X describes, I don’t know if $150 sq/f is the going rate, but when I hear of what it costs to do local roadworks I always am blown away at the amount. Seems the market to handle roadworks should be opened up more to other bidders rather than state roadworks…and this can more easily be done by private corporations, which is where they see opportunity (both lower costs and high tolls).

    Either way, since breaking the status quo would require very good politicians, we’re likely going to just get higher gas taxes or tolls, and I’d prefer the higher gas taxes.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      A while back ago a company here was trying to get into the road building business, they bought a bankrupt company etc etc, had a lot going for them.
      You have to have billions in capital for a company to do it, the government requires a certain stretch to be done before payment, if problems happen, you must finish with your own money. To get into the business today is damn near impossible.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Gee, here in NC, the only thing NCDOT does is minor repairs and maintenance. (Re-painting lines, filling potholes, working on signs, etc.) All major construction projects are bidded out, which are then supervised by NCDOT. I wasn’t aware that any states actually built roads with state employees.

    • 0 avatar
      lando

      As someone working in federal contracting… it really is our acquisition systems and laws in place governing federal contracts which drives up the cost so high. Private corporations are the ones doing the work, and they do bid on the contracts. But honestly, the best construction companies are in high demand… and don’t deal with the government. As the saying goes, “How do you deal with the devil and win? You don’t.” The extremely high cost of construction is a bribe to deal with the government. I have seen plenty of construction projects in which the company lost money, and the government got a poor product at exorbitant costs.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “the best construction companies are in high demand… and don’t deal with the government.”

        I have a son who is a Contracting Officer for the Marine Corps and that is exactly his biggest gripe, that the best suppliers and contractors do not want to work for the government.

        What he has left to choose from is Title 8 set-asides and various other special-venue contractors that are willing to flip the pages of the CBD.

        Not only is the government routinely in arrears of at least 90 days, but often the CTO’s change the specs or requirements AFTER the award has been let.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Nothing to see here, folks. The congressman is merely introducing a bill to squeeze some campaign and PAC money out of his market of potential donors/marks. It’s a racket. If he can get a real threat going then that’s some real money we’re talking about. Also, there’s party dues to be paid.

    Ignore

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I don’t think this will ever pass either. But if it somehow did, the vast majority of Americans would pay the increased tax because most Americans do not care about the cost of gasoline. They buy it no matter what it costs.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Current Federal gas tax per gallon is $0.184 on gas and $.244 on diesel. States then tack on per gallon another $0.20 for gas and $0.30 for diesel. It would be nice if the taxes were equal so that it does not favor one fuel over the other (may help more diesel passenger car adoption in the US as they get better mpg and will reduce the breakeven period even under the bad argument of only using the EPA numbers for this calculation [where gas cars often never meet this # in real world but diesel owners often exceed it]).

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The diesel tax is higher because most diesel is consumed by heavy long-haul trucks, which cause MUCH greater roadway wear (due to weight) per gallon of fuel than cars. (Roadway wear is not directly proportional to weight or fuel use.)

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    Can we be clear about something? The complaints about “raiding” and “misdirection” of the highway trust fund have a nice ring to them, but they’re just truthy. The trust fund is facing a shortfall from long-term structural declines in revenue, not because evil socialists are building phantom electric streetcars somewhere.

    http://www.taxpayer.net/images/uploads/downloads/HTF_-_TCS_-_FINAL_2012-01-18.pdf

    To insist that transfers from the general fund continue to make up the shortfall is selfish, and it contravenes the point of having the trust fund in the first place.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    .
    This is just what our roaring economy needs…
    .
    .

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Well, if we are going to fund roads via use taxes, a per-mile tax, with different rates for different vehicular GVW ratings would make the most sense.

    Passenger cars and light trucks would have the lowest per-mile rates, as they levy negligible wear on roads beyond simple aging. Rates would increase as GVW did (and not scale linearly) to account for the comparatively massive wear fully-loaded tractor-trailers cause.

    But of course such a tax would either require some kind of massive vehicle tracking infrastructure (no thank you!) or involve yearly odo checks (which would cause massive odo fraud.) Using fuel taxes as a substitute, and taxing diesel more than gasoline, is not the worst way to handle it. But the tax should, at the least, be indexed to inflation. And further indexing it by changes to nationwide fuel efficiency would help too.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    A big part of the revenue shortfall is that taxes did not go up when the price of gas did. Why not tax gas as a % of the sales price rather than as X cents per gallon? I’m in the minority that say gas taxes are too low. At the very least gas tax revenue should pay for the roads and contribute towards long term energy programs.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The problem with a percentage is that road maintenance costs don’t change with the price of fuel. Say the price of gasolile dropped to $1 a gallon again, if fuel tax revenue was a percentage, that revenue would drop too. But road use wouldn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        @danio3834

        Whether you set the tax at X cents/gallon or x% of sale price, you run the risk of collecting too much or not enough to meet your requirements. If the legislature is taking care of business, they adjust the tax rate if they find it is too high or too low. The problem is Congress hasn’t been taking care of business, and they haven’t adjusted the rate.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          That’s an excellent point. The legislature has turned into a circus that spends all their time on clowns, peanuts, and elephants while no one takes care of the basic jobs of government.

      • 0 avatar
        lando

        Actually, that is not necessarily true. I agree with most of what you post and fuel prices are more variable than road maintenance costs, but the overall structural increase in fuel prices is due to inflation… which also increases the cost of road maintenance. What you could do is set the fuel tax as a percentage of fuel price set on a five year rolling average or some other way of ironing out the variability of fuel prices.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Yeah, most places do it by a percentage outside of the states. It can work, as in general, fuel prices trend upward. Then if the infrastructure and miles travelled doesn’t increase, drivers are being overcharged. Either way, there will be some that aren’t happy. An honest regular adjustment would be the best way.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I have to agree with Hummer: “Remove fuel tax find a better system, taxing fuel is not the answer.”

    In the same manner that it is constantly argued that public school systems benefit our entire society, not just those with kids, the public road system benefits everybody, not just drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Unfortunately, the “better” systems are massively stupid, complex, and inefficient compared to the fuel tax.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      The most likely alternative to the fuel tax would be a usage tax, which would require tracking vehicles on the road, optionally charging more for peak hours usage. Most people are not comfortable with that.

  • avatar
    Dan

    State level projects are unaccountable enough as it is, let the feds get involved and you end up with 20 billion dollar holes in the ground in the house speaker’s district, half billion dollar rural bridges in the president pro tempore’s district, etc. Whereupon they complain there isn’t enough money for roads and taxes need to be even higher!

    There is no reason for roads that aren’t interstate highways to be federal projects at all.

  • avatar
    matador

    By us, they tear apart the roads way too much. We live on a Wyoming highway that they’ve redone 4 times since 2000. There is a stretch a ways back that has gone for about 10 years with just crack sealing. I drive on that section of road daily, and it’s fine. They’ll of course tear it up next year, but they don’t need to.

    They seem to do the popular roads very often, but the slightly less traveled ones never get fixed. We have a smaller highway near us that has a sectioned coned off for a large pothole. They haven’t fixed that hole in two years, but they have torn apart 20 miles of the neighboring highway???

    Do what’s needed, and quit wasting our money on stupid repaving projects that aren’t needed. I deal with many companies, one of which does road construction. Even they think we’ve gone overboard!

  • avatar

    The easy “cost neutral” way to fix our road infrastructure would be to outlaw all oil speculation (which adds 70-cents to a DOLLAR on every gallon of gas sold in this country). Then you just implement a 70-cent to $1/gallon gasoline tax to fully fund a world-class remaking of America’s roads and bridges.

    With the recent rediscovery of Roman Concrete, we have a good chance of making roads that last CENTURIES, not 8-10 years if we’re lucky.

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-14/ancient-roman-concrete-is-about-to-revolutionize-modern-architecture

    Roman concrete stands up to saltwater and all kinds of abuse, and now we can make our own. It would get a shitload of people back to work on all the bridges that need replacing in this country. Get to it, you bastards.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Every credible independent report indicates that we are not meeting the demands of our stressed and decaying infrastructure system — roads, bridges and transit,”

    True. But why is “transit” in there with “roads” and “bridges”?

    Fuel in my car and truck doesn’t put load on the bus or train system around here, so why should it pay for it?

    If he wants a “transit” subsidy at the Federal level, he should argue for it separately, not try and lump it in with road maintenance.

    (See, for instance, here: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/11/why-are-states-passing-billions-federal-transit-funds/4004/

    Over a billion dollars a year is going from the “Highway Fund” to … transit projects, rather than roads – and while this happens, Oregon’s infrastructure is in terrible shape, but at least we have a giant failure of a West Side Express rail system1

    I’d have a lot more respect for Mr. Blumenauer [who happens to be my Representative, in fact] if he’d *make the distinction* clearly and not try to wiggle “transit” into “highways”.)

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Let the bears pay the bear tax. I pay the Homer Tax.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’m not sure what the answer is here. While every decade or so this tax should have probably been reexamined and raised, at the same time it seems the more money you shovel into the Federal gov’t vortex the less you get for it. Part of me would suggest the Feds get out of highway maint and give complete responsibilities and taxation rights to the states, but I can’t see D.C. giving up any kind of control or revenue. One solution might be to make it illegal for so called “highway” trust fund money to be spent on anything other than the highways themselves, but as Pch101 accurately pointed out the federal gas tax was originally imposed as simply a road tax for Federal deficit reduction. The idea of a “highway trust” seems to be smoke and mirrors, a way to justify the gas tax to the proles and road repairs are in fact doled out of other accounts. Like many other Federal boondoggles whether taxes are raised or not the can will be have to be kicked along until there isn’t a foot to move it.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My Leaf laughs at you gas tax payers.

    Call me when they want to tax me $44/year at 120 mpg. Not enough? Then work out a different system.

  • avatar
    Atum

    Raised gas prices? Just what we need (obvious sarcasm). Liberals and their Teslas who don’t think gas exists, pah.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree, use the fuel excise tax for roads and bridges. Mass transit funding should not come out of the fuel tax. I do not mind this increase if it goes directly for roads and bridges as long as they are not “bridges to no where”. A bridge over the Ohio River connecting OH and KY on I-71 and I-75 is a example of necessary infrastructure for national commerce and security.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Problem is that when the bridge and roads are paid for, the politicians find other uses for that money that keeps rolling in.

      The problem in my opinion is not with the actual taxing, but with the politicians who misdirect and misappropriate the money that’s rolling in.

  • avatar
    Onus

    We should just privatize road infrastructure. allow the companies to toll, preferably with tolls that don’t require you to stop for ease of use.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Privatized toll roads have a nasty habit of losing money and ending up in bankruptcy.

      • 0 avatar
        lando

        So let’s give it over to government which doesn’t lose money and end up in bankruptcy?

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Transporting people is a money losing business. The users of transportation infrastructure aren’t willing to directly pay prices to use it that are high enough to turn a profit.

          Yet we still need transportation. It’s a public utility, and it needs to be subsidized. The only thing left for debate is exactly how we subsidize it.

          Reality doesn’t resemble your fictional view of the universe; not everything that is helpful to a society can be profitable, nor does it need to be. Grownups accept this and figure out how to pay that price.

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Bush and Obama will go down as the two biggest failed Presidents in the history of the country.

    The USA is broke.

    Everything they do in Washington has one goal and one goal only- to get money out of the public any way they can to keep the welfare state alive.

    Obamacare is not about your health it is tax.

    Immigration is not about a new life for illegals, it is a tax if they want citizenship.

    One day, with any luck, Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party will join up we will get a third party and that will be the end of the raping we are getting out of Washington form the Democrats and Republicans.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I purposely avoided commenting on this topic until now. I’m not an expert, but I did spend nearly 30 years working for the California Department of Transportation in highway design, both working on the actual blue prints and estimating costs of various projects.

    Let me just say that there’s always a lot of heat on this topic, mostly from people who really don’t know how the process works, and there’s plenty of evidence of that in some comments. There’s also a large number of comments that corrected some of the biggest misperceptions too.

    Let me also say that labor is a minor cost in road building, so there’s no need to get upset about government-mandated pay rates. Government is paying but private contractors are doing the work, and they pay their people the going rate for the skills needed, and that’s often more than the mandated amounts. Contractors get penalized in government contracts when they do things wrong and they’re willing to pay extra to people who do it right the first time.

    Secondly, be very wary of any numbers you see, hear or read. Engineers try their best to explain, but politicians are dumb and need simple explanations. Their “staff” knows even less, and gets the engineers’ information and explains it to politicians and others, often misrepresenting what they were told. Even the press screws up: The San Francisco Chronicle once ran a n article “What People Earn”, and listed state highway maintenance workers’ salaries at nearly $65,000. They actually made just a bit over $37,000, with top rate at $3114/month. The Chronicle asked and thought that was $31.14/hour, multiplying by 40 hours/week and 52 weeks to get the annual figure.

    Third, the building/financing model is broken. It’s not just a lack of inflation adjustment, or fuel economy, or the higher-than-inflation rise in construction costs. There’s no statewide, much less Federal system to inventory, inspect, maintain and rebuild the nation’s road network. Roads and bridges don’t last forever, and must be rebuilt top to bottom, not just asphalt re-skin or concrete slab replacement. Our largely concrete interstate has a lifespan of 40-60 years, and the system began in 1959. We need a massive rebuilding program just to keep what’s already built. Bridges are at a crisis point already, with many handling more traffic and weight than they were designed for. There have been two major interstate bridge collapses in this century, the Oklahoma I-40 bridge in 2002 and the Minneapolis I-35 bridge in 2007. Six years later there’s still no organized effort for enhanced inspection, it’s still left to state bridge inspectors making largely visual reviews independent of bridge overload history or stress analysis of components best done with sophisticated instruments. At the bottom of it all is deferrals caused by the annual government budget process, with those deferrals only addressed in a crisis situation.

    Bottom line: the task of maintaining and rebuilding our existing road network is about to explode, our elected leaders haven’t a clue, and the financing for it doesn’t exist.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Taken in context with the general mistrust and dislike the general population has for politicians, and the wasteful application of the taxes paid by their constituents, it should not surprise anyone that our existing road network is not high on anyone’s list of priorities.

      Most people have concluded that no matter how much money in the form of taxes we throw at any given problem, including maintaining and repairing the road network, it is never enough.

      History also shows us that taxes levied for some noble purpose at the time always get misappropriated long after the initial purpose has been achieved. We’re still paying taxes for WWI, and taxes for the telephone system. The list is endless.

      ANY proposed new or increased taxation is met with skepticism and resistance based on a rich track record of misuse, waste, fraud and abuse.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      The I-40 bridge was destroyed by a towboat. The I-35W bridge had thinner gusset plates installed than the blueprints called for (negligence). Neither collapsed due to decay.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Estimate of needed improvements brought to you by the “American Society of Civil Engineers”.

    In other words, the kind of people that recommend Mobil 1 for everything and buy nothing less than the contractor-grade outlets.

    I used to work in R&D in a very large corporation. If we adopted all their reccos, we’d be bankrupt. Somehow our business has managed 110 years of paying dividends without going to a 6X safety factor on our product boxes.

    Is anybody asking these engineers to minimize their recommendations, or are we getting sold on the Gold Package?


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India