Sunday, August 19, 2007
Answering My Wife's Question About Transportation Budgets
The other day, I commented that Ronald Reagan allowed for a federal gas tax 25 years ago because of the state of the interstate highway infrastructure. I made the comment that transportation budgets are always diverted to other things, and she jumped on my "always." However, I think I have a better insight into government nature than she does.

This column enumerates some of the ways transportation,that is, gas tax, money is spent that doesn't involve maintaining roadways:
    As recently as July 25, Mr. Oberstar sent out a press release boasting that he had "secured more than $12 million in funding" for his state in a recent federal transportation and housing bill. But $10 million of that was dedicated to a commuter rail line, $250,000 for the "Isanti Bike/Walk Trail," $200,000 to bus services in Duluth, and $150,000 for the Mesabi Academy of Kidspeace in Buhl. None of it went for bridge repair.
    Minnesota spends $1.6 billion a year on transportation--enough to build a new bridge over the Mississippi River every four months. But nearly $1 billion of that has been diverted from road and bridge repair to the state's light rail network that has a negligible impact on traffic congestion. Last year part of a sales tax revenue stream that is supposed to be dedicated for road and bridge construction was re-routed to mass transit. The Minnesota Department of Economic Development reports that only 2.8% of the state's commuters ride buses or rail to get to work, but these projects get up to 25% of the funding.
Here's how it works:
  1. Government get general tax revenue.

  2. Government spends tax revenue on shiny things, not maintaining core government services (law enforcement) or infrastructure (roads).

  3. Shortfall in core services funding becomes an emergency requiring raised taxes/dedicated taxes.

  4. Government gets dedicated tax revenue in addition to general tax revenue.

  5. Government spends general tax revenue on shiny things and new dedicated tax revenue on shiny things, not on core services or infrastructure.

  6. Shortfall in core services funding becomes emergency requiring raised taxes.
The problem does not lie in the amount the government is getting and spending; it lies in the things the government buys.

But don't tell the government or our elected/unelected "leaders" that. They like shiny things.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."