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Tums or Rolaids Won’t Fix This Gas Problem.

I cover a lot of ground in my travels around the Keystone State. One thing that has always been frustrating is the poor condition of our highways. It amazes me how I can leave Pennsylvania on a washboard, potholed covered highway and drive into an adjacent state that the road is as smooth as glass. This includes driving north, which totally negates that whole frost heave theory on why PA roads are so bad that is often pedaled to the PA taxpayer.

This is nothing new to our state. I remember back in the 80s and 90s when my family was in the trucking business; the trade publications always ranked Pennsylvania as one of the bottom feeders in regards to the condition of the highways. Some highways like I-81 in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area have always seemed to be under construction at the same spots. The same bumpy roads, the same construction slowdowns, the same end game.

To rub a little highway salt in that driving wound of frustration, Pennsylvania has the highest gas tax in the Country, which we all feel every time we fill up. This has also been consistent through the years. We currently pay 77.1¢ on a gallon of gas, 58.7¢ Pennsylvania tax, and 18.4¢ Federal gas tax. This is a quarter more a gallon over the national average.

So we pay the most tax and have some of the Nation’s worst roads and bridges. This is where some expert would want to tell you that is because we have more roads and bridges than any other state. This is just not true when you look at the data. When you compare PA to other states our size, we’re right about where we should be. Nationally, we rank 11th in total miles of road and 9th in the number of bridges. PA does currently have over 2,800 state-owned bridges that have been deemed structurally deficient.

So again, what we have here is just another fleecing of the Pennsylvania taxpayer. Just think about the piles of money that have gone to Harrisburg and Washington to build and maintain our infrastructure. Not to mention the tolls that have been collected for the use of the PA Turnpike and Northeast Extension. Wouldn’t you like to know that amount of money, for the last 20 years? And that is not even getting to the revenue the transportation industry provides.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently found that over the past six years, 4.2 billion dollars has been diverted from repairing highways and bridges to the PA State Police. I guess it could have gone to worse places, but here is the smoking gun of why we have the problem we do. How much money do you think has been redirected by the hierarchy of Harrisburg from where it was intended to be spent? This has created a debacle where the rubber is about to meet the road. The PA taxpayer is going to pay for infrastructure maintenance and upkeep that they’ve already paid for but was never completed.

If the State Police needs more money simply increase the budget. Again, I never have a problem supporting the PA State Police nor would most Pennsylvanians. However, it would be foolish to think the earmarked money for infrastructure hasn’t been swindled away for many other reasons.

Did I mention President Trump wants to increase the federal gas tax by $0.25? He reasons that it has not been increased since 1993, and it’s necessary to improve the Country’s infrastructure. I do not doubt the President that it is needed. However, I believe it is just another example of mismanagement of funds collected both at the state and federal level for a specific purpose. Can you imagine the total dollar number nationally if you add up all the fuel taxes, tolls, licenses, and so forth over the years? Our Nation’s highways should be paved in gold or at least level asphalt.

When I began driving in 1983 gas was around 85¢ a gallon. In the near future, we will be paying $1.021 in just state and federal tax. By the quick math in my head, which is no longer taught in schools, on 20 gallons of gas you will pay $20.42 in tax. Absolutely crazy.

Folks, here’s the really scary part. The state and fed could double the gas tax, and the roads would not get any better. Until we get government under control, and the money is spent where it’s intended to be, it’s a losing battle. They will just continue the fleecing of the American taxpayer and the providing of the same old excuses.

The other cost created that you can’t even put a number on is the increase in maintenance dollars spent on all vehicles. Personally, I’ve had two incidents where potholes have cost me money. The long-term effects of my vehicle unknown. How about all the Williamsport School District buses that have bounced up and down West 4th Street over the years, or all the state-owned vehicles that run each and every day.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Governor Wolf is taking a victory lap over the hellbender being named the state amphibian of Pennsylvania. The hellbender ought to be the state symbol for driving the roads of Pennsylvania.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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