Friday, January 26, 2007

Pained at the Pump?

Submitted by Paul Ellis

In Tuesday evening's State of the Union address to Congress, President George Bush called for development and production of fuels and automobiles that would decrease the use of oil in the United States by 20 percent during the next 10 years. While that may be good news for the environment, Governing's Christopher Swope observes that it will make the pinch for transportation funding even more acute.

Remove 20 percent of the $35 billion collected nationwide each year for transportation projects, Swope calculates, and local, state and federal governments will be short $7 billion. "Add to that the reluctance of state legislators to allow gas taxes to keep pace with inflation," he continues, "and you have a tax that is no longer viable for the modern world of politics and environmental policy."

Swope foresees three possible ways to make up the revenue that decreased oil consumption might defer:

  • Use new technology to levy taxes by the mile rather than by the gallon (Oregon is already testing this idea);
  • Develop partnerships with the private sector to get new roads built;
  • Impose a lot more toll roads across the country, whether they're run by the states or by private vendors.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community's largest transportation planning effort.

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