May 2008

It is now apparent that we’re at the stage of our presidential campaign where our candidates start throwing out candy to us as though we’re spectators to a parade.

The first true sweet salvo was lobbed by Sen. John McCain when on April 15 he called for a suspension of the federal highway user fees — which is the 18.4 cents per gallon gas tax and 24.4 cents per gallon diesel tax. He called this suspension, which would run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, an “immediate economic stimulus.”

Trouble is that since 1956 gas taxes are required by law to be dedicated to the federal highway trust fund. At a time when we hear of one structurally deficient bridge after another, some even falling down as the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis did, depriving the primary source of infrastructure funding is both irresponsible and short-sighted. While some estimates have said that Americans would save an average of $2.50 per fill-up as result of the tax moratorium, other estimates predict that during this three-month period, we would lose approximately $9 billion in revenue for our roads, bridges and public transit investments.

Furthermore, according the U.S. Department of Transportation, for every $1 invested in highway infrastructure, $2.60 is generated in economic benefits — less traffic means fewer total hours lost at work, easier access to business when shopping and fewer traffic accidents, to name just a few ancillary benefits

Bottom line is that a true economic stimulus package is one that includes investment in our infrastructure, an idea that has not yet been discussed as we plod through our current economic downturn. Creating jobs, as any infrastructure investment would invariably provide, is always vital element to recession recovery.

While I’d love to save a few bucks at the gas station, I’d much rather drive across bridges I know are safe, sit in less traffic (thus burning less fuel) on roads that have been widened, and have more people working, which in turn, injects money back into our economy. I only hope others don’t go for the quick sugar fix. P

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