Take the High Road on Transport

Jul 16, 2009

First up, The Christian Science Monitor writes:

Anyone who uses America's roads, mass transit, rails, or ports knows what terrible shape they're in...America can't afford to sit idling on transportation. Moving people and goods efficiently is the backbone of the economy...Also, the funding source for highway repair and mass transit – the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax, unchanged since 1993 – is broken. It needs to be truly fixed, not just patched.

A transport bill must not be charged to the national credit card. Voters at the state level have shown willingness to pony up for better highways and mass transit. Major business groups want action now – and they back higher user fees...This is going to be an uphill fight. This week, a key Senate panel backed the president's 18-month delay. The House Ways and Means Committee, whose job it is to come up with revenue for the bill, says it's too busy with healthcare to get to America's highways, bridges, and subways.

But the public, business community, and supporters of the House bill are way ahead of the White House on this. They understand how vital reliable, speedy transportation is to their lives and the economy. Mr. Obama must remove his roadblock.

Now to the Wall Street Journal:

The gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993, and an increase is seen as a politically risky move, particularly during a recession. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood repeated in a congressional hearing this week that the administration wouldn't raise the gas tax during a recession...Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said during a hearing last month that she opposed an immediate gas-tax increase but would be open to eventually tying fuel-tax increases to inflation.

Office Depot's Mr. Odland said the idea that Congress is unwilling to raise taxes is "laughable." He cited climate-change legislation that would force businesses to purchase permits for greenhouse-gas emissions, and a proposed surtax on the wealthiest Americans to help pay for a health-care overhaul.

"We're raising taxes all over the place," Mr. Odland told reporters Wednesday, saying gas taxes should be considered "user fees" on drivers and businesses. "Stop with those taxes and let's start with the user fees."

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