Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No gas tax? No road fixes

Voters in Sisters saw the value of representative government and the prudence of a gas tax when they voted Tuesday, by a wide majority, to tack on 3 cents a gallon for road maintenance.

Voters in Redmond and Madras, however, overwhelmingly rejected similar measures.

This means Sisters will have a better chance of maintaining its roads. Redmond and Madras will not.

Since Oregon does not have a sales tax, tourists and other visitors don't have to pay that much for whatever effect they have on the state. A local gas tax, in tourism-dependent Central Oregon, made perfect sense.

Of course, during this Great Recession, any increase in any bill is unwelcome even though gas prices in Central Oregon are substantially lower than in California and Washington where it's all self-serve.

But the elections should never have taken place. City councils in all three cities voted to put the measures on the ballot. Bend, the city most in need of road repair and entertains the most tourists, was too cowardly to even consider a gas tax.

Naturally, the Oregon Petroleum Association led petition drives to force the Tuesday election.

And the OPA is not done. It's going to challenge the Sisters vote.

This is where we are in a representative democracy. Meaning, of course, we don't like the representatives that we elect to office. We just want direct democracy through ballot measures. And when that fails, take 'em to court.

But, what we end up with are unfunded, voter-approved mandates from prisons to schools to health care.

We want all of the government services and more. We just don't want to pay for them.

And, we get angry when government doesn't fix roads, lock up criminals, keep schools open, expand our universities, heal the uninsured because we claim they don't have their priorities straight.

We shout: Cut the fat! Cut the waste! Off with their heads!

The Republican solution is to cut taxes and ban gay marriage.

The Democratic solution is to raise taxes to pay for the services society needs and demands. Oh, and allow civil unions.

(We always need to have a divisive social issue to get out the vote).

Our national debt is in the trillions. Oregon's deficit is in the billions and Bend's shortfall is in the millions.

The beer lobby prevents any increase to the nation's lowest beer tax, because it isn't fair. The petroleum lobby, the tourism lobby, the health insurance lobby and corporate lobbies all fight any tax, any time.

We have more lobbies than motels in this nation.

So, as our infrastructure crumbles, as our schools cut days, as our jails let out criminals, and as we all get sicker, we have ourselves, and corporate lobbying and, to a far lesser extent, union lobbying, to blame.

Thank god for the Communist Chinese. They still seem willing to finance our deficits. That's capitalism for you.

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