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Gas tax break would be no holiday

Proposals by McCain and Clinton would hurt economy and nation's transportation system

Proposals by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain to give Americans a holiday from federal gasoline taxes from Memorial Day to Labor Day are examples of bad election-year politics that if implemented would hurt, not help, America.

We recognize that Clinton and McCain are trying to offset the staggering and still increasing cost of gasoline and diesel fuel. These price hikes are contributing to America's current economic tailspin. And higher prices for food, home heating, daily travel and services spare few and often harm those who are most vulnerable: low-income and fixed-income Americans.

But simply putting the federal 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax and the 24.4-cent-per-gallon diesel tax on hold for the summer is neither a strategic, nor conclusive way to improve the American economy or aid those in peril. Economic experts say that relief from the gas tax would provide the average driver a $30 break over the summer and that most intended savings would get lost in the complicated supply and demand chain of oil refining, distribution and gasoline retailing.

What is certain is an $83 million loss in federal fuel taxes that would otherwise come to Oregon. These are funds that would be invested in essential road, highway and bridge maintenance, safety work and system work that would reduce congestion and improve travel for drivers and freight. Nationwide, the loss would be an estimated $10 billion.

Such losses would result in needed transportation projects being delayed or outright shelved and would cost 2,800 jobs in Oregon and up to 310,000 jobs nationwide. So much for economic relief and a financial stimulus.

But that is only part of the story. America and Oregon have done an inconsistent job of funding highways needs since 1993 - the last time the state and federal gas taxes were both increased. As a result of this underfunding:

• Federal, state, regional and local highways are slipping further into disrepair.

• Driver and trucker safety is being compromised.

• Congestion is mounting in many large and small urban cities and, as a result, so is pollution from idling vehicles.

• Many needed improvements, efficiencies and new projects are being proposed and designed, but are never built or are only partially completed.

Instead of cutting back, we believe that there is a compelling need to invest consistently and effectively in national, state and local transportation systems that serve people, quality of life, the environment and the economy.

Going forward, we expect strategic leadership from candidates running for president. Not suggestions like a holiday on gas and diesel taxes that would result in numerous harmful consequences.