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Raise the gas tax, save the roads PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 15:48

A Congress paralyzed by ideological obstruction to needed taxation is allowing highways to deteriorate, threatening the life of citizens and the economy

It’s probably safe to assume that no country on earth relies on highway transportation more than America, the nation that sprawls from ocean to ocean and supports the world largest economy with a vast and complex network of highways, roads and streets essential to the more than 15 million semi-trailer trucks that transport the bulk of the economy’s goods and the more than 150 million automobiles that transport people to jobs, stores and other destinations.

    How could such a country allow its roads to fall into disrepair and its plans for new or improved highways needed for a growing population and economy to go unfulfilled?


    It could—and has—because its legislative branch of government is paralyzed by political rancor driven by an ideology that considers a fundamental tool of functioning governments—taxes—an evil to be stamped out at any cost.


     If Congress fails to pass a highway funding bill by Aug. 1, an estimated 100,000 highway projects will be halted and many or most of the 700,000 construction workers employed on those projects laid off.


    That would be devastating not only to the national economy, but to the states and local governments, including Wisconsin and Ozaukee County and its communities, that rely on federal funding for road projects. State governors gathered at their recent summer meeting expressed outrage over the failure to replenish the almost empty Highway Trust Fund and both Republicans and Democrats among them called for increasing the gas tax.


    Raising the tax by a few pennies would solve the problem. But this easy solution is blocked by congressional Republicans sworn to an anti-tax ideology.

    The crisis will likely be postponed. The House has finally passed a highway funding bill; the Senate and president are expected to go along. This would avert a disaster, but it’s a lame excuse for effective legislation that relies for revenue on pension rule changes that will raise taxable incomes of corporations but reduce workers’ pension funding and provides highway funding only until May 2015.

    Raising the gas tax, the long-term fix to sustain the Highway Trust Fund that some in Congress regard as poisonous, is needed because the current tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel has not been changed since 1993. The fact that the tax lost 39% of its value to inflation since then, while construction costs have increased about 60%, largely accounts for the inability of the trust fund to pay for the nation’s highway needs.


     The gas tax does have flaws. Owners of electric cars, a fast growing group of highway users, are exempt. Owners of hybrid cars and other fuel efficient vehicles pay less per mile of highway used than owners of other vehicles. As soon as the technology is available, a method of charging drivers for the miles they travel—a mileage-based user fee—should be substituted for the gas tax.


    Meanwhile, a nation that once celebrated its state-of-the-art highway system stumbles along with an obsolete gas tax and duct-taped-together temporary funding while an estimated 10,000 motorists are killed each year due to deteriorated roads.


    Stumble along, that is, until next May when the temporary funding stops and the crisis is replayed.


    The term “kicking the can down the road” has been resurrected to describe Congress’ highway funding debacle. It’s fitting but not quite accurate because the can is not likely to make it down the road before it drops into a pothole.


 
Affront to voters PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 14:41

Boycotting a League of Women Voters forum was a political stunt by Liebham and Grothman that hurt voters more than the League

Odds are the new congressman to represent Ozaukee County and the rest of the 6th Congressional District will be chosen in the Aug. 12 Republican primary election.

    It is an understatement to say the district is heavily Republican. Retiring Republican Rep. Tom Petri won 18 consecutive elections, the last two with 62% and 71% of the vote.

    Though Petri has effectively represented his district with a solidly Republican, moderately conservative voting record, two of the four Republican candidates to replace him have apparently made a calculation that the way to win the primary is to appeal to the archconservative fringe of the Republican party, territory that is the frequent haunt of the tea party.

    The tactic has had some success in other states in Republican primary elections in which turnout is typically light because it appeals to voters with strong political convictions who are likely to vote.

    Joe Liebham of Sheboygan and Glenn Grothman of West Bend, both currently state senators, have been tripping over each other in an absurd dance to the furthest reaches of the political right, each vowing to never compromise on a conservative principle if elected (as though this is what a Congress rendered dysfunctional by an inability to compromise needs).

    The latest dance step was led by Liebham, who announced that he was refusing to participate in the candidates forum held by the League of Woman Voters in Mequon Monday. Grothman quickly followed. Both issued statements saying they would not attend the forum because the sponsoring group had opposed Voter ID legislation.

    No one is naive enough to think this was anything but a political stunt—exploiting an opportunity to display fealty to a pet issue of conservatives—but it was hardly a harmless stunt.


    Liebham and Grothman’s ploy was an affront to voters. Forums such as the LWV event are meant to show voters where candidates stand on issues, not with self-serving campaign statements, but in answers to questions posed at the forum. These two candidates denied voters that opportunity.

    The stunt was also an affront to a respected, responsible, non-political, non-partisan public service organization. The League of Women Voters has followed a one-item agenda since it was founded in 1920—to support the fundamental right of American citizens to vote. In furtherance of that cause, the candidate forums it has sponsored for many years have been scrupulously fair.

    It was also in furtherance of that cause that the League opposed Voter ID legislation, on the grounds that it would deny many qualified citizens the right to vote. Grothman and Liebham characterized the League as “opposed to election integrity,” when in fact it is the Voter ID law they support that is legally considered contrary to election integrity.

    The League’s position was validated by a federal court in April. Judge Lynn Adelman ruled the state’s Voter ID law unconstitutional, saying, “It is absolutely clear that Act 23 (the Voter ID law) will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.”

    Liebham and Grothman’s stunt gave another candidate for the congressional seat an opportunity to make points. State Rep. Duey Stroebel of Saukville, who did take part in the forum Monday, said, “When the professional politicians are afraid to talk to people who disagree with them, you get Washington-style gridlock. Unlike Sen. Liebham, I am willing to tell people where I stand on the issues facing America today.”

    That should have stung. The spectacle of candidates who purport to have the qualifications to be effective representatives in the nation’s legislative branch of government running from a voter forum because it’s sponsored by an organization with which they disagree on a single issue is hardly a profile in courage.



 
Dorothy Gilson PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 18:47

Town of Fredonia native Dorothy R. Gilson, 92, of Random Lake, died Monday, July 7, at Lawlis Family Hospice in Mequon following a brief illness.

A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, July 11, at Eernisse Funeral Home, Belgium.

Father James Ernster will officiate.

Visitation will be at the funeral home from 4 p.m. until the service.

Burial will be at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Random Lake.

 
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