Thursday, December 14, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Highway bill doesn't meet nation's needs

President Barack Obama's highway spending plan has only two problems: The math doesn't work and the politics don't, either. Though the proposal gives the White House talking points as Democrats enter the midterm elections, it is not a viable map for addressing the long backlog of transportation needs. The president and Congress need a long-term plan that includes enough real money to build and maintain a modern system.

Obama used the backdrop of New York's worn Tappan Zee Bridge last week to highlight the sorry state of America's infrastructure and to call on Congress to move quickly on a new highway bill. But the plan the administration put forward last month, called Grow America, is not grounded in reality. Though the measure includes new money for roads and bridges, it relies on budgets gimmicks to patch over the fundamental weakness with highway funding. And it opens a troubling door for states to shun their responsibilities by allowing them to carve out toll lanes in the existing (and free) national highway system.

The president would spend $302 billion over the next four years on highways, freight and mass transit projects, which the White House touts is $150 billion over current spending levels. But the added spending would not really reach $150 billion. Because of shortfalls of $56 billion by 2018 in the highway trust funds, the additional amount would total $94 billion. That would be one-time money, not a recurring investment. Beyond calling for closing unspecified corporate tax loopholes, the plan is unclear about where the new revenue would come from.

The proposal is not a serious substitute for a transportation policy of the 21st century. In a major status report last year, the Department of Transportation found that only half the nation's highways were rated in "good" condition. Two-thirds of the country's 604,000 bridges are more than a quarter-century old, and one in five is deficient. The backlog for repairs alone is about $86 billion and growing by the year. The nation is playing catch up as other countries invest and improve their competitive edge.

Transportation needs a broader revenue base. The federal gas tax of 18.4-cents a gallon hasn't been increased since 1993. That's why the government has transferred $54 billion from the general fund to cover highway spending since 2008. Even Obama's plan falls short of the tens of billions of dollars in additional spending the DOT says is necessary for the nation to maintain and improve its transportation system.

A Senate committee last week approved a bill to keep transit spending at current levels for the next six years. That would keep the highway trust fund from going broke by 2015, but it also guarantees the highways would continue to bleed the treasury. Higher gas taxes at least indexed to inflation, fees that charge motorists for the miles they drive and other progressive measures would replace declining revenue from gas taxes. Those gas tax revenues have been dropping because of increased vehicle fuel efficiency and less driving during the down economy. Obama and Congress need to create a transportation funding system that addresses the need to move forward and reflects the changing nature of how motorists use the roads.

Comments
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17