Thanks for an accurate and great article by Randy Dockendorf — no surprise there — on South Dakota’s highway projects (Press & Dakotan, July 15).
We are fortunate that our state is moving ahead on various projects even though there is a lack of positive action by Congress on this important issue and, thereby, no guidance on any future planning of needed projects.
The big hang-up on any highway bill, which plagues us every five or six years when the existing one expires, is FUNDING. Even though the present proposed plan by the president and Democrats has an excessive amount of pork-barrel projects in it, unrelated to true infrastructure, the passage will get down to, “How are we going to pay for it?”
Democrats and Republicans alike need to wake up to the fact that the ONLY viable method is to increase the federal gasoline tax. This outdated amount is at 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and has not been increased since that amount was set in 1993! That is almost 30 years since we’ve seen an increase in the federal tax. What other daily required items can any of us come up with which have not increased in price in 28 years?
One of the funding ideas for the proposal suggested by the president is to increase taxes on Americans making over $400,000/year. Does anybody really feel that this would provide enough additional funding and, by the way, how fair and lopsided is that idea?
The ONLY way to pay for a new highway bill and to prevent our Highway Trust Fund from going broke is to gradually increase this 18.4 cents number. If you drive a vehicle powered by gasoline (or diesel, which is taxed at 24.4 cents) and buy fuel, you need to pay for the highways that you drive on; it’s simple. An elderly non-driving person or anyone who does not drive will not pay one cent more. What could be fairer?
How many times do we go to the gasoline pumps and note that the price per gallon has just increased by a few cents? So, the obvious, intelligent solution is to initially increase the federal tax by perhaps a nickel and then by 1 or 2 pennies per year, possibly dependent on inflation.
In a few years, this federal tax would still be less than the average state tax on gasoline, which now sits at about 30 cents/gallon; South Dakota’s is 28 cents/gallon, as it was just increased a few years ago, thanks to the diligent work of Mitchell’s Mike Vehle and others in our state.
America cannot afford our highways and bridges and airfields to deteriorate, for safety, congestion and resultant fuel consumption, defense and a number of other valid reasons. Congress needs to wake up and face this issue head on with a federal gasoline tax increase, similar to what has been done by most states.
Joe Vig of Yankton is a retired manufacturing executive who served as president of Kolberg-Pioneer, Inc., and was a group president of Kolberg-Pioneer, Inc./Johnson Crushers International (KPI-JCI) and Astec Mobile Screens.