He believes that an increase will help close the budget deficit and create jobs. I think he's spent too much time in Washington's logic-free zone.
From The Hill:
In a letter to members of President Obama's debt commission, Voinovich laid out his argument for the increase.
"Fuel taxes today fund the vast majority of the federal government's investment in infrastructure projects," Voinovich wrote in the letter. "Due to dwindling fuel tax receipts, Congress has had to transfer billions of dollars from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to maintain our current level of federal involvement."
From a factual basis, Voinovich is correct. They are transferring billions into the Highway Trust Fund.
But the question shouldn't be 'how do we get more money into the Trust Fund?' We should be asking WHY government is spending more money from the Trust Fund than it is taking in?!? Can you say pork? Because it's all the 'earmarks' that members of Congress fund that leads to the overspending. And since Congress gets to decide whether or not to transfer money from the General Fund, they easily do so.
Voinovich should NOT be looking for ways to get more money to spend, but for ways to stay within the budget based upon the revenues they do have. (And this doesn't even get into the discussion of whether or not the Trust Fund is constitutional in the first place.)
He 'explains' that the gasoline taxes haven't been increased since 1993 when it went from 4.3 cents per gallon up to 18.4 cents per gallon. For reference, that's a 328% increase!
Too many politicians believe that a lack of increased taxation is somehow a problem. And it might be a problem for government, but it certainly isn't a problem for the taxpayer.
Increasing taxes on an item means people will use less of it - not more. Perhaps he believes that people will pay whatever they must to have the flexibility and freedom that driving provides them. But Voinovich is wrong if he believes that there will not be some decrease in consumption of an item whose price is raised.
Voinovich fails to account for the impact such an increase will have to the overall economy. If gasoline prices rise, so will the price of all items that are transported. Trucking firms and delivery companies (UPS and FedEx) will have to raise their prices to accommodate for their increased costs. Many firms tack on a fuel surcharge as it is, so the cost of that surcharge will be greater if Voinovich has his way.
Our senator is also mistaken when it comes to creating jobs. While government payment for construction and road work does employ people, it doesn't do so in a sustainable way. And with 'sustainable' being the focus of liberals these days, you'd think this would be an issue - but, strangely, it isn't.
When the government money runs out, as it always does, the jobs go away. This is not the type of 'growth' the country needs. What we do need is a low-tax environment that allows private companies and individuals to have the funds to spend as they see fit. The investment that results leads to more opportunities, more employment and more demand for services. That is what leads our economy - not higher taxation so government can create the illusion of growth.
Is Voinovich correct that we have a crumbling infrastructure? I don't know - and a look at Toledo roads might lead everyone to believe that is the case. But Toledo's roads are Toledo's problem - not the problem of the federal government.
So let's look at the root of the problem: the spending. The Highway Trust Fund was supposed to pay for interstates and highways, but today it pays for so much more. As Reason Foundation says:
" ... asking federal highway users to pay substantially more in order to fund expanded programs for sidewalks, bikeways, recreational trails and more transit is unlikely to succeed, since the large majority of highway users do not use, and would not benefit from, these mostly localized urban projects. Principles of federalism suggest that these kinds of projects are more appropriately funded at state or local levels of government."
This Washington Times article says it even more plainly:
We invented the federal Highway Trust Fund in 1956, promising motorists and truckers that all proceeds from a new federal gas tax would be spent on building the interstate system. They aren't. Congress has expanded federal highway spending beyond interstates to all types of roadways. And ever since 1982, a portion of those "highway user taxes" have been diverted to urban transit. Today, the federal role in transportation includes mandating sidewalks, funding bike paths and creating scenic trails.
As a result, spending exceeds gas-tax revenues and the Highway Trust Fund is broke. Some claim this is because the 18.3-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax needs to be raised. But drivers can fairly put the blame on the fact that 25 percent of gas-tax funds are diverted to non-highway uses.
A key to fixing the problem is to identify what should be federal and what should be state and local responsibilities. In principle, only the interstate highways - our key arteries for interstate commerce - should rise to the level of the federal government. Other highways, streets, sidewalks, bike paths, local transit lines, etc., are more properly state and local concerns.
So rather than push for a tax hike, if Voinovich were to push for an end to funding non-highway projects, the Highway Trust Fund would have about another $11 billion per year to address the aging infrastructure he's so concerned about.
That would be the conservative, fiscally-prudent thing to do. But that also means that a lot of politicians and individuals who've raided the fund for non-highway purposes might find that, on a local level, their pet projects don't make the grade.
We've seen it here in Toledo - opposition to bike paths when the money could be better spent actually improving the roads and eliminating our pot holes. But the excuse our city government has given us is that the funding for bike paths is 'federal money.' That just means that the federal politicians have substituted their will for the will of the people in terms of priorities for how tax dollars are spent. Eliminating these non-highway projects also advances the opinion of our Founding Fathers - that such decisions are better made at a local level, not the federal one.
If Sen. Voinovich were truly interested in the federal deficit and the Highway Trust Fund, he'd look for ways to reduce spending - not for ways to fleece the taxpayers. And he'd work to eliminate non-highway projects for the HTF so that the limited dollars it takes in can be spent on the problems the highway system faces.
Of course, this kind of common-sense reasoning is completely ignored by the people making the decisions. Perhaps it boils down to the fact that we need different people in the decision-making role.