Funnel gas taxes to right ends
Oregon's 'road to ruin' is a combined product of the state Legislature, Metro, the City of Portland, environmental groups and even at least one U.S. congressman (Dec. 2). They all have taken part in waging a failed social engineering agenda against the automobile that has crafted a disinvestment in roads. But the automobile is most Oregonians' primary choice of transportation.
Too often the funding gap for road maintenance and construction is blamed on not raising the gas tax. But the real problem is that funding for streets and roads still comes from a single group of users Ñ motor-vehicle drivers.
However, millions of dollars from fuel taxes have been siphoned off to pay for bike infrastructure, sidewalks and mass-transit subsidies, and to help build both commercial and residential developments categorized as transit friendly. The gas tax was conceived as a user tax for motorists to pay for the roads they use: The more you drive, the more you pay. More road money would be available if gas taxes were strictly limited to funding roads.
Funding priorities must be based on actual need rather than social function. As an example, there is a greater need for two additional lanes on Oregon Highway 217 than there is a need to aesthetically rebuild Naito Parkway just because it borders downtown Portland.
Highway and bridge tolls have been discussed to raise money. But adding to the cost of driving will only hurt the economy. We've seen recent spikes in fuel prices that forced motorists to curb consumer spending.
If Oregon adopted toll lanes, however, bicycle lanes should be included, allocating the responsibility for the costs directly to the exclusive users who receive the benefit. It is ironic that bicyclists rally against gas guzzlers, when those vehicles contribute far more tax-dollar subsidies for bike facilities than do the fuel-efficient vehicles or the bicyclists themselves.
Furthermore, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance recently came out with a list of its most wanted projects, but failed to offer any kind of user-funding method to pay for them.
Continuing along the same line of thinking of allocating costs to the people who receive the benefit, transit users Ñ now paying just 20 percent of TriMet's operating costs Ñwould see transit fares increase fivefold if they were to pay their full and responsible share.
Motorists cannot continue to bear the costs for other modes that do not pay their fair share of system costs. Taxation must be broader based to include all modes of travel for the economy to remain vibrant. If the Road to Ruin is to be turned into the Road to Progress, government officials must have an open conversation with the public on this subject, and then develop a tax system whereby the users of alternative modes equitably pay a greater and more responsible share of the transportation funding price tag.
School board setsbad example for kids
We sure hope that Portland public-school students don't read the paper or pay attention to current events. Why? Because their school board members aren't setting an example for any of them to emulate.
The Oregon Supreme Court has said that the former board had illegally fired the custodians and owes them back wages as restitution. What does the current board say? Reconsider. We can't afford to do the right thing here. We can't afford to be responsible. We can, however, afford to spend money on attorneys to fight our government.
Our local union followed this issue closely when the illegal terminations were done. We attended board meetings and offered our support to the workers involved. We sent letters to the board members at the time, noting that two dissenting members knew the terminations would be wrong and voted against the action.
Do we currently have any board members who value family-wage jobs and agree to abide by the law of the land?
Bruce R. Dennis
President, Carpenters Local 247