Our Democratic leaders are starting to lead and get us on the right track toward improving the economy.  In the process, they will put many of us back to work and help to solve the problem of replacing our crumbling infrastructure, all at the same time.

At least this is getting started in Oregon, as described in an article in this morning’s Seattle Times.  Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and legislative leaders say they are ready to deliver with a big job-creating transportation package as a first step toward these goals.

Yes, this proposed bill will raise taxes.  The governor is proposing a 2 to 8 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax, along with a big increase in motor vehicle licensing fees.  many of you will tell me to stop right there.  We just get those Democrats into office, and there they go raising taxes right away.

Well, yes it will.  But if you look at what we pay for a gallon of gasoline, it is still nearly double what it was just a few years ago.  The gas tax has remained relatively constant during that time.  In act, as a percentage of the cost of a gallon of gas, we are paying half as much as we were for gasoline.  Secondly. the Oregon DMV charges barely enough in fees to cover its own expenses in doing the paperwork to register and license cars.  It would not be unreasonable to raise these fees to a more realistic number.

Now, you say.  Before you tell me I am just pro-taxation, let me explain why I believe this to be a good idea in this case.  Currently in Oregon, and in Washington as well, we are billions of dollars behind in just performing the regular maintenance that is required to keep our roads and bridges in functioning order.  Oregon is also dealing with a backlog of public works projects that are needed to accommodate the growth that is happening throughout the state.

We have a number of issues that need to be solved here in Oregon:

  • Many bridges all over the state are in need of major repairs or replacement.  Among them are many bridges and overpasses along I-5 and I-84, as well as some local routes such as the Sellwood Bridge in Portland.  Better to replace them now rather than after they fall apart.
  • With growth still booming in the Portland area, there are expectations of tens of thousands of new people moving into the exurbs around Portland in the next twenty years.  Oregon has an excellent reputation for accommodating this growth.  There is no reason to stop now and not plan for and build the necessary roads.  This requires not only new roads beyond the current Urban Growth Boundary, it also includes the need for additional paths to get commuters over the Willamette River and into Downtown Portland.
  • Like the rest of Cascadia and the US in general, our unemployment is rising significantly right now.  Since we need new and maintained infrastructure, it only makes sense to put people to work on it right now, while the extra labor and workforce is available.  It will be less expensive for taxpayers that way, since we would reduce the costs of supporting the unemployed and take advantage of a “buyers market” in the workforce.  Why not do this now?
  • Will an extra dollar on a tank of gas really hurt us?  Be fair now.  That 15 gallon fill up just went down from $50.00 to $34.00 in the last 30 days, and was as high as $65.00 this Summer.  That extra dollar per tank is cheap compared to the problems it will solve for us.  You will not really notice it.  And if you really are counting those pennies, it is likely that you will end up paying more than that dollar just in the costs of “going around” if a bridge of a major highway fails us.

There are many reasons to tax ourselves, and there are many reasons not to tax ourselves.  For a long time, the Republican mantra was “No new taxes.”  No, we should not go crazy with taxes.  But certainly, paying a little bit in extra fuel taxes now will save us more money in the end by improving our roads so we can drive those cars more efficiently.

Call our leaders what you want.  Call them “tax and spend” liberals.  There is a time to stop spending and a time to stop taxing.  Now is not the time.  Now is the time to stimulate our economy.  Now is the time to put workers back to work.  Now is the time to repair and maintain our roads and bridges so we can continue to use them into the future.  If that goal takes an insignificant investment on our part, so be it.  Thank goodness that, in this case, our leaders are willing to do the right thing and start to lead.