Sunday, April 22, 2018
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: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18