Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vote yes on Bend's gas tax

The American way of fixing our roads
The Bend City Council recently voted to put a gas tax measure before voters in March, but then also voted to give away $1 million to developers for the vague promise of "affordable housing."

In essence, don't expect potholes to filled until a year after they appear.

Should a gas tax pass, the city will still be short of funds because they won't be collecting building impact fees of at least at $1 million.

Roads will degrade more and we'll have little or no "affordable housing" to show for it.

The gas tax, which is the only fair way to pay for road repairs, may be set at 10 cents a gallon, but will likely be either 5 cents or 3 cents a gallon like most of Oregon's major cities and counties.

A 5-cent per gallon tax could bring in about $2.5 million per year, but with $80 million worth or road repairs needed today, it would take 32 years to fix the roads. A 10-cent tax would get us there in half the time.

This would be a great time to enact a gas tax because gas prices are expected to fall below $2 per gallon this winter. Bend's gas prices are lower than they are in Washington state and about a dollar lower per gallon than Southern California. Gas prices are expected to stay low for at least two more years.

Visitors to Bend will still marvel at the fact that we have relatively low gas prices when you consider it has to be trucked from out of state to get here.

Bend's main industry is tourism and most tourists drive to Bend. The annual beer festival last weekend drew an estimated 40,000 to Bend, which is about half our current population. With a local gas tax, tourists could directly help pay about a third of our road maintenance budget.

Of course, the predicable whiners from the oil industry and Republicans hog the news with doom-and-gloom prophecies should a local gas tax pass.

Even three of our councilors voted against putting a gas tax before voters. One councilor, Victor Chudowsky, even claimed that gas taxes don't work. Right, no gas taxes built our roads in this country. Please, Chudowsky has no business serving in government or anywhere. Someone get him a butterfly net and set him loose.

A committee will help shape the gas tax proposal. It will also look at other funding sources including a monthly fee on city water/sewer/storm bills. But, because our fuel taxes are too low for the road work required, a hefty property tax bond will be needed for major road projects. And, this increased property tax will make housing even less affordable.

Politicians in Washington refuse to consider raising the federal gax tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, so it is left to the states to raise fuel tax even as they scratch their heads and wonder how to fund road repairs. The federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993, so the burden falls to the states. Even a penny per gallon per year would do wonders for fixing our crumbling infrastructure and put people to work. Fuel taxes in much of the developed world are $3 dollars to $4 dollars per gallon.

It's remarkable that people can't figure out why our roads or bridges don't get repaired. If we don't want to pay for them through a modest increase in the gas tax they won't get fixed.

It's not complicated.

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