Friday, July 9, 2010

A game of 'kick the can'

Leading into the Fourth of July weekend, USA Today ran an article titled “Gas taxes give us a break at the pump.” In the story, the author insists that Americans have “something extra to celebrate” because today’s vehicles get decent fuel mileage while the federal fuel tax remains stagnant at mid-1990s levels.

It is shortsighted to think that this nation should “celebrate” that infrastructure dollars seem to be dwindling. Truckers certainly aren’t rejoicing. Neither are the people of Minnesota who had an interstate bridge fall down in August of 2007, killing 13 people including a truck driver.

The infrastructure crisis is real, it’s here, and it’s now. The mentality that this is a time to celebrate delays in infrastructure funding is part of the problem, not a solution.

Ultimately, it’s up to Congress and the White House to get this ship righted in the form of a comprehensive highway bill to replace the status quo. The trouble has been, and will continue to be, funding.

We’ve heard tough talk from some high-ranking members of Congress, but highways have taken a back seat to other issues such as health care, bailouts and more recently, the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

That has left states reeling to find their own way, and that’s why we see more schemes related to toll infrastructure to pay for transportation. We need a clear vision from Congress and the White House to proceed with important infrastructure policy and funding because our infrastructure needs will not go away on their own.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer recently wrote that “it’s time we had the tax talk.”

“Lawmakers have been literally playing ‘kick the can’ with the highway bill for the past 15 months because no one wants to talk about where new highway funds would come from – specifically fuel taxes,” Spencer wrote in the May issue of Land Line Magazine.

Truckers pay their fair share in taxes and fees. Not only that, but truckers vote, and that gives them the right to demand good highways and bridges.

It is not a time to celebrate the “lowest” fuel taxes in 30 years when inflation, income and miles traveled are taken into account. This is a time to demand action, or we as a nation run the risk of facing even more economic conundrum in the future.

The game of kick the can needs to end.