Thursday, September 1, 2011

Next spending fight will be gas tax for highway bill

Motor fuel use tax will expire on September 30
Washington – President Barack Obama threw out the first pitch in the latest fiscal fight yesterday.

He called for a “clean” extension of the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gasoline tax, a fixture of every transportation bill that has cleared Congress and the White House since 1993.

That's how they pay to keep “Ike's Autobahn,” the interstate National Defense Highway System, in tip top shape. Or, at least, they did at one time.

Then there was that wake-up call, that brick through the window shocker.

The bridge over that big-two-hearted river, the Mississippi span at Minneapolis, collapsed, precipitating trucks, cars, freight and passengers into the abyss below.


Is it more noble to cut out the middle man by letting the states raise their own highway maintenance funds? Or is it best to let the federal DOT collect the taxes, then apportion them back to the states? To do so is to pay the price inscribed on a built-in sticker.

Federal law requires union workers on interstate highway projects.

House Speaker John Boehner and company have a new way of doing things.

Propose a $10 billion project, budget a $10 billion project – end of story.

Under the terms of new laws passed in the latest Congress, there will be no more turning the first spades full of dirt, then holding the government hostage to fund the rest of the job. That leads to deficit spending fueled by stop gap borrowing and ad hoc budgeting.

But the president has the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in his corner. They like the status quo.

Highway projects are a chief source of union jobs; America's goods move by truck, and no one in those departments are ready for the kind of brave new world in which old hands at the game foresee recalcitrant state legislatures holding highway projects hostage to bust unions while freight routes go through massive detours and delays.

It just isn't done that way.

Are people ready to scratch, bite and fight in competition for what resources are available?

Take a look at this video. I think you will quickly get the picture of yet another aspect of the Tea Party-Labor disputes.

Knowledgeable observers are expecting the kind of bare-knuckled fist fight we saw over the health care act, collective bargaining for public employee unions, and the debt ceiling.

Laissez le bon temps roulet!

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