Plan to spend more money on gasoline. The handwriting is on the wall. Apparently what President Bush meant when he asked us to read his lips, no new taxes, was no new "federal" taxes.
Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner says there are no plans to increase the federal fuel taxes, but . . . Ah yes, there is a "but."One part of the "but" is Skinner feels some sort of revenue increase will be needed on the state levels.
With highway bridges falling down and road surfaces needing billions of dollars in repair, there's little question that something has to be done to raise funds.
The tragic loss of life that occurred with recent bridge collapses in Tennessee is something Americans can't accept.
Skinner says he and the president see the need for what they call "user fees." Skeptics call this a thinly disguised tax.
No matter what you call it, the end result is higher costs. Truckers will probably be hit hardest. They'll argue that they serve everyone, by delivering everything from food to furniture. They have a point, and it should be remembered that they're already heavily taxed.
Critics of user fees argue that the highways belong to everyone and serve everyone, not just the so-called users.
And they point out that collecting a user fee would be complicated and expensive. Toll booths would be one answer, but they're labor-intensive and only work on limited access roadways.
Currently, nearly 90 percent of interstate highway costs are borne by the federal government. Proposals to reduce that balance and make the states pay more would put the burden on the states to raise their fuel tax.
But there's a glimmer of hope, at least for the time being. A world oil glut should keep prices down for a while, and we in the United States pay about the lowest fuel taxes in the free world.