Friday, March 6, 2015

NCGA Has a Gas Problem

     It is widely known that North Carolina has the highest gas tax in the southeast. We contribute vast amounts of money to the transportation department budget. It is also widely known that our infrastructure and the department that runs it, is full of waste and inefficiency. This is not uncommon but still upsetting. We, the motorists of the old North State, pay so much for so little in return. If you weren't mad enough, then just wait till you see what our GOP led State House and Senate are doing.
     The calculation that determines gas prices was going to adjust this year. A The adjustment was going to be rather expansive due to falling crude oil prices. Estimates had the gas tax dropping as low as 26.9 cents. Instead the NCGA has passed a bill that does not allow the drop in prices and actually pushes a gas tax hike. The logic that is being used to justify this bill sounds like talking points from a Jim Hunt administration or a Marc Gaslight budget briefing. Not a GOP led, supposedly conservative legislature.
I understand that we need to spend money on transportation. I want to drive on safe bridges, smooth roads, and uncontested free ways. However, for the money we are already spending and have spent we should have that already. It's time for a new approach.
The legislature could actually start using sound budgeting practices. If you look at budget worksheets and budget documents you see millions of dollars worth of transfers and bailouts. We need to adopt zero based budgeting at the state level. Instead of using base line budgeting that rarely yields cuts or spending reductions, using zero based budgeting would be more efficient and more effective.
    The legislature should also stand up to Tony Tata and enforce fiscal discipline. We need to stop subsidizing pork barrel projects that help politicians and not motorists. The legislature needs to make sure that we look at our infrastructure needs and ensure that projects that need to be done get done and leave the pet projects alone.
     The legislature to me should adopt this common sense approach:
          1. Reduce DOT staff by 25%.
          2. Form a plan that prioritizes the repair of major bridges and highways based on need and not
             who the Rep. or who the Senator is.
          3. Institute a fixed gas tax rate. Not a calculation.
          4. Cap it, and require super majorities in the House and Senate to raise it.
     This plan is just the start. We should look into privatizing the State DOT. The Governor would appoint the Transportation Secretary. The Secretary and their star would put projects out to bid and take the bidder who deliver the best product for the best price.
     I am not a policy wonk, but common sense, conservatism is not hard and is not rocket science. The wizards of smart in Raleigh missed the boat on this one. The GOP led house retreated from a fight that needed fighting. It's tell a Republican face nowadays. Since they always seem to retreat from the fight, all I see is the back of their heads.