January 2015

By now, you may have already noticed an improvement in the overall printing quality of this issue of Superintendent’s Profile. That’s because we’ve upgraded the paper stock and the magazine has gone entirely to heatset print. What that means is photography will be much crisper and colors more vivid and the paper throughout this issue (and all future issues) is sturdier. We know how much these Profiles mean to the person being profiled and we wanted each issue to be an even better keepsake. Hope you enjoy these changes.

On another matter, in my December 2014 column, I expressed hope (though admittedly, a naïve one) that the lame duck Congress might or should slip through a modest gas tax increase. I wrote that the tax has not been increased from 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993 and that it was a good time, with gas prices plummeting, to pass a tax increase because if for no other reason, it would be palatable and barely noticeable. I argued that we desperately need additional funding for the nation’s infrastructure and that just a few cents extra a gallon could go a long way toward addressing our deteriorating roads and bridges.

I recently received a letter to the editor from a retired highway superintendent who disagreed with my call for an increase in the federal gas tax. He contended that perhaps we have less of a funding problem than we do with how the money is allocated. That is a legitimate point of view. Wasteful spending is pervasive throughout all aspects of government, and when I argued for support of a gas tax increase, I did not intend to suggest that it doesn’t happen with transportation funding, too. Not all funding goes toward shovels-in-the-ground work; some of it goes to mass transit, environmental reviews and studies, project design and so on. And states allocate their gas tax revenue to many different things besides roads and bridges. The American Society of Civil Engineers says we need $3.6 trillion by 2020 to upgrade our infrastructure. In 2011, the federal gas tax raised $41.2 billion — a lot of money but not enough to address our needs, even if all of it went to construction. So let me put a qualifier on my call for a tax increase: if the feds will ensure that a rise in the motor fuels tax will go to infrastructure, then yes, I’d be willing to pay more for a gallon of gas.

Have a happy, healthy and safe 2015.

You can also view previous issues of Superintendent's Profile.