Wednesday, May 7, 2008

You Want to do WHAT in an Election Year?

(from the March Editor's Note of AsphaltPro magazine)

We ought to just label this "the tax issue" of AsphaltPro. We've got an article about transportation funding compiled from AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley's presentation at the recent NAPA meeting, our coverage of the NAPA meeting includes a hefty dose of info on transportation funding, and I'm about to rail on the topic here.

You have to understand, I don't like paying taxes. I live in a state where there is no state income tax, and that makes me pretty happy. (One less surprise to pay in April.) But a fuel tax that makes the roads I drive on safer is one of those inconvenient things that I almost welcome (almost) because it makes sense. And let's argue the word "inconvenient" for a moment, shall we?

How inconvenient is it to absorb an extra 40 cents that got worked into the system somewhere up the chain so I'm paying a couple cents extra at the pump? The steps:

1. insert debit card
2. pump gas
3. hang up nozzle
4. drive away

That wasn't so inconvenient, now, was it? It's not as if I was asked to write a large check to the state specifically to take care of the roads I want repaired so I can be safe, so my groceries can be delivered in a timely fashion to the store down the street, so the ambulance whisking a friend to the emergency room gets there without an additional accident, so the airplane taking me to CONEXPO doesn't have to wait in a long line because Runway C is too cracked for use.

Do you see my point? We don't feel the shock of a 40-cent user fee increase at the pump, but we sure will feel the shock of losing $70 billion in Federal Highway Funding next fall when the current user fee expires.

Consider the number of roads the construction industry can maintain if DOTs and counties see a sudden and sharp decrease in funding. How many new projects, intended to mitigate gridlock and congestion, do you think will go through if states suddenly can't go to the well for monies to pay contractors? And if states can't afford to let projects, how can producers and contractors afford to keep employees?

If your job is at risk, you must let your representative know. Why vote for him or her this fall if he or she isn't interested in protecting your welfare on not just that basic employment level, but on a safety level, too? The roads we all drive on should, at the very least, be preserved and maintained to keep them safe for travel. (Heck, about 4 to 6 percent of the roads in this country are concrete pavements that need to be replaced and/or resurfaced!)

The argument I present to you is that your representative in Congress should be concerned about your livelihood and your safety. If that person isn't willing to reinstate and up the user fee that funds highway and infrastructure expenses, then that person isn't willing to reinstate your job. Why should you be willing to reinstate his (or hers)?

Congress has to act this summer to get a user fee in place to replace the one that's expiring. Without it, we won't have the funds to continue maintaining and improving the nation's highways and bridges. Safety, thus lives, are at risk. Jobs, thus livelihoods, are at risk. It's time to make some phone calls. You can find your representatives' contact information at

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender, Editor

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