Pondering the highway plan | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pondering the highway plan

Posted By on Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 7:09 AM

Brummett says he can see no reason to oppose a nickel tax on diesel to rebuild the trucker-destroyed interstates, but has some concerns about a regressive sales tax for a four-lane plan to nowhere — though not about putting this idea the ballot.

The diesel tax isn't perfect. I'd like more analysis on whether it comes even close to paying for damage truckers cause. It also depends on borrowing against future federal money, which diminishes the purchasing power of those dollars by adding the significant interest costs of paying off the bonds. And, has anybody but me wondered about the certainty of a continued heavy flow of federal highway dollars? You'd think the Tea Party would put a stop to that if they could.

I think we also live in a representative democracy. If an elected representative thinks a regressive sales tax is an unwise and unfair way to pay for highways — particularly as a temporary, expensive fix requiring another bonanza for bond daddies and bond lawyers — and that it furthermore will build four-lanes in cow pastures on the vain hope that these roads might lure a TV tray assembly plant to some remote crossroads, they should kill it now and not punt the decision to voters.

Better idea: Raise the damn severance tax and make the drilling rigs that are doing hundreds of millions of damage to state roads pay for the repairs. Nobody in Arkansas, except royalty owners, will have to pay anything for elemental justice. (I'm told by a reliable source that a significant portion of the royalty interests are held out of state, particularly by railroads. I'm happy to let Warren Buffett pay.)

This legislature thinks sales taxes don't count as money somehow, even on groceries. House Republicans clearly don't want to reduce the tax on beans and rice. They do want to reduce the tax on rich people's investments. They hope people stupid enough to think this is good government will put a tax on their utilities, clothes, cars and more to build a freeway down to Standard Umpstead so as to keep highway contractors happy. Sadly, they may not hope in vain.

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