Spending Highway Money on Non-Highway Things
This is Part II of our thoughts on Conway’s roads funding and the Southern Interchange. Read Part I of “Paying for Conway: Southern Interchange” here.
AHTD reports it had to cancel planned road projects due to a lack of funds it blames on decreasing fuel tax revenue. What a bunch of morons! For years we’re forced to drive aluminum foil-covered roller skates to increase fuel economy, and nobody at the state or federal level noticed we were using less gas?
Nobody looked at the unintended consequences of more efficient cars. Anyone except a bureaucrat or an elected official could see that blindfolded.
When the rules on fleet economy were changed, why didn’t the government raise the fuel tax (assuming the people wanted all the non-road projects funded by this tax) to keep the revenue flowing? It has been 20 years since the gas tax was changed. Cars are different today, and the tax should have been modified to reflect this.
Then there’s the problem of how the fuel taxes are spent. Most people think the fuel tax pays for roads and bridges — not always true.
In Texas, half of the fuel tax revenue collected goes to education, public safety, and miscellaneous projects. The remaining half goes to roads and bridges.
So if you drive, you are funding projects that have nothing to do with roads and the roads continue to get worse. What’s wrong with this picture?
This video will get your blood boiling. And, take a look at just some of these programs that are administered by AHTD (online links have since been deleted from AHTD website):
• Compliance with Federal Highway Law
• Safe Transportation Program (STP) – provides funds for projects in small cities and rural areas
• Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation – part of Federal Highway Law
• Transportation Enhancement Program – 10% of STP funds are allocated for these projects, which include educational activities and facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists, and a whole slew of non-highway related projects. You have to read this to believe it.
• Recreational Trails Program – for motorized, non-motorized (bike and walking) and mixed use
• Safe Routs to School Program – a program to encourage children to walk and bicycle to school
• High Priority Projects Program – the grab-bag program designed by Congress for their “special” projects
• State Aid Program – this program dictates how counties get their highway funds based on a formula that rewards location and rural population percentages
As you can see, an awful lot of highway money is spent on non-highway things. Just on the State Aid Program, Faulkner County has collected about $12,000,000 that hasn’t been used on highways in the last five or so years. There is no need requirement, just the distribution rules.
Seems like such a waste to us. That $12 million more than offsets the $10 million of so in “lost” funding it would take to finish Conway’s south interchange (but Hizzoner would’ve had to give up those bike lanes around town).
It’s time to stop all the convoluted, non-transparent uses of our tax dollars — at federal, state, and local levels. Fund education or not, pay for public safety or don’t, but do it out of general funds, not earmarked user fees which then do not produce enough usable revenue to get the job done!