Friday, June 6, 2008

‘Please, sir, may I have some more’

We recently ran an encore of our investigative series into highway funding in Pennsylvania.

One of the aspects of highway funding in places like Pennsylvania is the use of road taxes for so-called “transportation enhancements” – things like bike and hike trails, parks, street beautification, museums, historic buildings and so on.

As we’ve made clear all along, this is not a problem restricted to any one state. And it needs to be addressed everywhere it occurs.

Some truckers are taking action, calling their lawmakers and demanding change. And that’s something that’s great to hear.

Calls like that will become more and more important as we inch closer to the next highway bill.

A new highway bill is supposed to be written every six years, not only determining each time how federal road taxes will be spent for those six years, but often guiding how they’ll be spent long into the future.

And while calls to Congress are important, the pressure shouldn’t solely be on them.

State officials are the ones who are making the big decisions on creating new toll roads, tolling existing roads, and privatizing our highways.

We need to make sure they understand that we’re watching how they spend our highway tax dollars, and that we expect those dollars to be spent responsibly.

When they misspend our money, say then that they’ve run out and then return to the trough asking for more, it’s a little like someone finishing a 12-course gourmet meal, letting out a huge belch, and then walking up to the waiter like some bloated, overfilled version of Oliver Twist and saying “Please, sir, may I have some more.”

Until they spend what they have properly, it makes no sense to give them any more. It’s time to say no.