A week after a deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis, President Bush dismissed Thursday raising the federal gasoline tax to repair the nation's bridges.
Bush said Congress should change its priorities rather then raise revenue to fund repairs: ''That's not the right way to prioritize the people's money. Before we raise taxes, which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities.''
President Bush ignored the fact that only 8 percent ($24 billion) of the last $286 billion highway bill, was devoted to highway and bridge projects singled out by lawmakers. The balance is distributed through grants to states, which decide how it will be spent. Federal money accounts for about 45 percent of all infrastructure spending.
The Democratic chairman of the House Transportation Committee proposed a 5-cent increase in the 18.3 cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax to establish a new trust fund for repairing or replacing structurally deficient highway bridges.
More than 77,000 of the nation's bridges are rated structurally deficient, including the bridge that collapsed over the Mississippi River last Wednesday. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it would cost $1.6 trillion over five years just to bring the nation's infrastructure up to "good" condition. "Establishing a long-term development and maintenance plan must become a national priority," says the group.
President Bush is nothing but audacious in challenging Congress' priorities. Recall that the 2001 Bush tax cuts' price tag was $1.3 trillion, almost enough to cover the entire cost of bringing all the nation's roads and bridges up to par. Half of that tax cut went to the wealthiest 1% those averaging over $900,000 a year and one third of all workers received no tax break at all.
Its the Bush administration's priorities that need changing!