USA Today: Motorists Aren't Paying Enough for Roads

     As you drive to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, just keep in mind you’re not paying enough in taxes for those roads you’re driving on.


     That’s the viewpoint Larry Copeland of USA Today advanced on the front page of the paper’s November 20 edition in his article, “Motorists face new costs for highways: States, cities finding gas tax inadequate.”


     Yet while Copeland was diligent to relay the tax-hungry pleas of politicians, he left out conservative critics who argue states and the federal government already bring in plenty of tax money for maintaining roads and building bridges.


    “This has been a big theme of mine for the two years leading up to the reauthorization of the federal highway program,” Dr. Ronald Utt of the conservative Heritage Foundation told the Business & Media Institute. Utt, a transportation policy expert for the Washington-based think tank, said that “only about 60 percent of the federal fuel tax” goes to road projects that benefit motorists. “The rest leaks off into diversions and frivolities,” Utt added.


    Among those “diversions and frivolities” are numerous “earmarked” expenditures, known commonly as pork-barrel projects, which have little to do with paving roads or building bridges.


     Nowhere in his story did Copeland hint that reckless spending has a role in transportation funding inadequacies.


     “Transportation funding is pretty much a critical issue everywhere,” Copeland quoted Matt Sundeen of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “A lot of states are really struggling to find ways to pay for the transportation programs,” he lamented, before Copeland went on to suggest new taxes states could levy on motorists, such as a “pay by the mile” program being tested in Oregon or “congestion pricing” for toll road use at rush hours.