There are three weeks left of the Legislative Session and it seems like we are stalled at a crossroads of common sense: even though this is a fiscal session and we are facing a budget deficit and a fiscal cliff in 2019, hardly any bills have been heard, much less passed, that deal with our revenue problems. They have certainly been filed, but the vast majority haven’t even been scheduled a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee-the origin of all revenue. With one notable exception.
HB 632 was lucky enough to get a hearing and barely squeaked by Ways and Means. It raises the gas tax by 17 cents, which would restore it to its original value had it been indexed to account for inflation when it was set in 1990. Yes, this feels like a lot. No, nobody wants to pay more taxes. But the problem here, as always, is that we are starting behind the curve. Had we invested properly from the beginning, we wouldn’t have a $12.7 billion backlog of transportation construction projects and we wouldn’t be in danger of losing crucial federal match dollars for repairs and maintenance. Unfortunately, our infrastructure is something we cannot afford to permanently damage and we have to do something about it-no matter how difficult it is. This is a hard lesson that we can learn from.
We’ve already learned how to cut spending. We’ve consistently asked every department to do more with less over the last 9 years, streamlining to such a point that even the champions of cuts can’t find another ounce to trim.
We’ve also learned how to make spending more efficient. We’ve finally started investing on the front end instead of paying triple for our mistakes on the back end. We started wising up by turning one of our biggest expenditures (Corrections) into one of our smartest expenditures with the introduction of landmark criminal justice reform legislation. We have a roadmap to follow and we have momentum.
But we have stalled when it comes to adequately raising revenue for future investment. The good news is that we have the missing piece: we have a whole suite of tax reform bills and revenue measures that are in line with the findings of the bipartisan Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy-we just have to get them heard in committee.
Let’s finally get ahead of the game instead of starting from behind. Once we fix our roads, let’s keep the momentum going.
A state like our knows well that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Call your Legislators and ask them to vote yes tomorrow to HB 632 and to please stop stalling.