So the Legislature coughed up $1.2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to build roads. Wait, let me rephrase that: the Legislature will let voters decide in fifteen months if they want to cough up $1.2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to build roads. I see little to celebrate in this drop-in-the-ocean outcome. The Legislature is locked into a mind-set in which it is impossible even to consider a long-term solution for addressing our transportation needs (more or less the same thing happened with water, which voters will decide on in three months).
A modest increase to vehicle registration fees would be a start — it hasn’t happened since the mid-eighties — but even that is too much to ask. I can understand the ideology against raising taxes (although we did raise the mixed-beverage tax this session), but how did it become anathema to raise fees? The Legislature has come to a point where it is hemmed in by rigid ideological barriers, a labyrinth from which there is no escape. We have just about come to the point where the only way to spend money is from the Rainy Day Fund. Anything that raises the cost of government is off the table. Every politician in the Capitol talks about how conservative he or she is, but how is it conservative to allow our roads to fall into disrepair with no plan to rescue them from their present plight? Or our water infrastructure? Or our schools? Or our health care system? The list goes on.
On the last day of the third speciall session, a group of business leaders held a press conference in the speaker’s committee room to advocate for more money for roads. By this time, of course, it was far too late to make a difference. So our lawmakers did what they always do: They put a Band-Aid on the problem that will trick the public into thinking that they have done something. Providing $1.2 billion for a $4 billion problem does not constitute “doing something.” But by golly, it was “conservative.”