I was flabbergasted by John McCain's proposal to suspend collection of the federal gas tax for this summer. Suspending this user tax would deprive the Highway Trust Fund of $8-10 billion in much-needed revenue to patch potholes, rebuild failing bridges, and keep the Interstates and other key arteries from further declines in their already pathetic levels of performance. And this comes at a time when the Trust Fund is already facing a 2009 shortfall of $2-3 billion (thanks to Congress legislating more highway spending than existing gas-tax revenues can support). Plus, since the gas tax is only about 5% of the cost of a gallon of gas, the savings to motorists would be trivial.
McCain's advisors have rushed forward with damage control, promising a legislative proposal that would hold the Trust Fund harmless by replacing the lost gas-tax revenue with general fund money, thereby adding another $8-10 billion to this year's ballooning deficit. That would at least make the proposal less irresponsible from a transportation policy standpoint.
Poole's solution? Instead of tax games and a fake trust fund, sell the highways. Or as he puts it:
The longer-term solution is to scrap the 20th-century tax-and-grant system in favor of universal tolling, managed by each state's Department of Transportation and private toll companies.
Whole item here.