Martin Hawver
Guest Columnist
Interesting little political/philosophical showdown coming up in the next few weeks that might be a litmus test for the Kansas congressional delegation.
That delegation—Kansans elected Republicans to every seat we get in Congress—will be facing sometime before Oct. 1 a vote on reauthorizing the Federal Highway Act, or whatever they’re calling it now as Congress cooks up acronyms that contain fewer and fewer vowels, but still are marginally pronounceable.
Sounds simple. Nobody doesn’t like good highways. Nobody doesn’t like the good-paying jobs that building and repairing those highways create—though nobody likes to see highway workers leaning on their shovels, of course.
At a time when jobs are relatively scarce, those highway jobs are a big deal: Workers with those highway jobs are paying taxes, taking care of themselves and their children and generally stabilizing the national economy—maybe even buying things that keep the stores and jobs in those stores for us.
Oh, and money from that Federal Highway Act comprises the majority of the state’s highway construction and renovation money.
But the key to all that good economic activity is the federal fuels tax, which goes away if a new iteration of the Federal Highway Act isn’t approved by Congress before it expires on Oct. 1.
What’s that federal fuels tax amount to? It’s 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon for diesel.
And, what’s that conservative talk we’ve been hearing lately…that not allowing a tax to expire is a tax increase? It’s the mantra on extending the President George W. Bush-era income tax breaks. The mantra is that letting those tax cuts expire equals raising taxes, a bad thing for most conservatives.
Wonder whether that applies to the federal fuels tax? If it is allowed to expire that’s a tax cut and if it is reauthorized, well, we guess that’s a tax increase.
This might just get interesting. Presumably, if Americans get to keep 18.4 cents in their pocket for every gallon of gasoline they buy (you diesel folks keep more), they’d either put it away for retirement or use it to buy health insurance or take care of their kids or whatever we’re told that people do when taxes go down that creates jobs and prosperity for the nation.
But…what state doesn’t want good highways and the jobs necessary to provide them? Wonder whether there are any members of Congress from Kansas, or, well, anywhere, who don’t want those jobs in their states? Even if it isn’t highway projects those funds are used for, even if they’re used to create hiking/biking trails for folks who don’t buy motor fuel.
We’re thinking that reauthorizing the federal motor fuels tax is…well, maybe not a tax, but a fee for users of highways. In which case, shouldn’t hikers be paying 18.4 cents tax per shoe, and maybe 24.4 cents per boot?
Not really a tax increase, we’re figuring, though we’ll leave members of Congress to explain to us why.
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this statewide nonpartisan political news service, visit the website at