Mayors to Washington: Do Something!

Mayors to Washington: Do Something!
Education, infrastructure top mayors’ wish list, POLITICO Magazine survey finds.

Politico.com
By Eva Rodriguez
4/27/15

The cities’ CEOs are disgusted with Capitol Hill. Sure, we’ve known the American people have little regard for Congress, which has been experiencing record-low approval ratings. Yet fellow elected officials working in America’s cities also hold Washington in disfavor, and they had a clear message for their representatives on Capitol Hill: Gridlock has gone too far.

Some 82 percent of mayors queried said they had very little or no confidence in Washington lawmakers to address the nation’s most pressing problem, according to Politico Magazine’s inaugural Mayors’ Survey. What did mayors find most grating? Was it lawmakers’ almost genetically-encoded aversion to solving important challenges? Their tendency to grandstand? Their inability to resist kowtowing to powerful special interests? All of the above, nearly half of the respondents reported.

“We must do what we can on our own, locally and regionally,” said…
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Crumbling roads creep up as issue, gas tax revenues keep falling

The Journal Gazette (Ft. Wayne, IN) By Niki Kelly 5/3/15 INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers tackled a lot of issues in 2015 but not the one plaguing Indiana’s roads, bridges and infrastructure: lack of money. Instead, that will be the primary focus … Continue reading

Gov. Pence wants a $56 million bicentennial “party” and the roadways…

By Russ Phillips

In my opinion the roads – cities and towns, counties, Indiana highways and Indiana interstates – are not receiving adequate road maintenance including sealing and resurfacing as needed as well as prompt filling of potholes and this has been true for a number of years. Some will cite Indiana’s most recent winter as causing the problem and it certainly has made things worse, however, years of neglect has led us to the current roadway conditions. Indiana’s state government as well as the federal government have shirked their responsibility in establishing a long-range program for adequately maintaining our roads. Instead only enough is being done to get by, if even that.

It’s a matter of priorities. Governor Pence’s proposed state budget, in acknowledgement of Indiana’s bicentennial birthday, calls for the construction of a new state archives building ($25 million), the construction of a Bicentennial Inn at Potato Creek State Park ($25 million), the creation of an education center at the Indiana State Library ($2.5 million), the development of a commemorative Bicentennial Plaza ($2 million), and the funding of the Bicentennial torch relay initiative ($1.6 million). Where will the funding come from?

According to Pence the state’s cell tower infrastructure is currently being underutilized and “is not realizing its full commercial potential.” The state — which owns 150 cell towers — is looking to lease the excess capacity to private operators, producing at least $50 million, while still maintaining its critical public safety and emergency communication. State police communication is at the core of those needs. This would pay most of the cost of these projects. There is also a possibility of the new inn being privately financed as a business venture and this I would support.

It is my opinion that the above $56.1 million should be applied to road maintenance. What do you think? Other ideas?

Some of this article is from one or more of:
WNDU.com
WBAA, Public Radio from Purdue
South Bend Tribune
The Statehouse File

President’s 2016 Budget in Pictures

National Priorities Project
By Jasmine Tucker
2/9/15

President Obama recently released his fiscal year 2016 budget proposal. Budgets are about our nation’s priorities: What are we going to spend money on? How are we going to raise the money we want to spend?

Though the budget ultimately enacted by Congress may look very different from the budget request released by the president, the president’s budget is important. It’s the president’s vision for the country in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, and it reflects input and spending requests from every federal agency.

These pictures tell the story of the priorities found in the president’s budget.


President’s Proposed 2016 Budget: Total Spending

This chart shows how President Obama proposed allocating $4.1 trillion* in total federal spending in fiscal year 2016, an increase of more than 5 percent over the total 2015 spending level. This includes every type of federal spending, from funding for discretionary programs like infrastructure improvements and job training to mandatory spending programs like Social Security and Medicare, as well as interest payments on the federal debt. Social Security and labor, Medicare and health programs, and military spending will make up 76 percent of the total budget, leaving just 24 percent, or $957 billion of the $4.1 trillion total, to spend on all other programs.

* Spending on Government (administration) is less than zero and omitted in the total spending pie chart. Lower than zero spending can occur when segments of government have surpluses from previous years that they return to the federal government.

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It’s really simple: pay more taxes and/or change priorities

We have an $18+ trillion debt. To chip away at it all that needs to be done is pay more taxes and/or change the priorities. Of course, there are many different government programs that contribute to this debt. As this debt continues to grow, ironically, our country’s deteriorating infrastructure continues to be ignored.

The country’s infrastructure – roads, bridges , seaports – are in need of attention. However, there seems to be little desire to do anything other than “a patch here and a patch there.”

It boils down to how much are we willing to spend (i.e. taxing the people) and what are the priorities? (This isn’t limited to infrastructure!)

Federal gas tax since 1993 has been 18.4 cents/gallon. (more)

Some advocate increasing this tax. Others favor reducing current expenditures. Part of this 18.4 cents is used for the Transportation Alternatives Program that includes the recreational trails program and the safe routes to school program. (more)

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail used $36 million of this 18.4 cents for its creation. (more)

The Transportation Alternatives Program was apportioned for the 2014 fiscal year almost $820 million and this included more than $81.5 million for the Recreational Trails Program. (more, including individual state apportionments)

A state-by-state listing of the 2012 Discretionary Grants with a description and funding amount are listed here. As a suggestion you might want to search “trail” in this information.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in its publication “Trust or Bust: Fixing the Highway Trust Fund” lists “Fig. 4: Options for Savings Within the Highway Trust Fund” and “Fig. 5: Options for Savings to Offset General Revenue Transfers.” One of the options for savings is to eliminate the Transportation Alternatives Program that includes the Recreational Trails Program. (more)

Paying more taxes or revising priorities becomes complicated when 535 Congressional members and the President must reach a consensus. Help them out by contacting your members. Regardless, we either pay more taxes and/or change the priorities.

Trust or bust: Fixing the Highway Trust Fund

(On August 8, 2014 H.R 5021 became law supporting transfers of General Funds into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). This provides authorizations for transit, highway and highway safety programs to be funded through the end of May 31, 2015.)

“TRUST OR BUST: FIXING THE HIGHWAY TRUST FUND”
The Committee for A Responsible Federal Budget
6/18/14

…Highway spending has exceeded gas tax and other dedicated revenues regularly over the past decade, and this shortfall will only grow over time. Dedicated revenues currently fund less than three-quarters of total HTF spending, a concern that lawmakers have addressed in recent years by transferring $54 billion of mostly general tax revenue into the HTF (only $15 billion was paid for and partially with a gimmick). In FY2015 alone, highway spending could exceed revenues by nearly $15 billion, and over the next decade that gap will approach $170 billion.

There is broad bipartisan support for funding highways and other transportation infrastructure, which can both help to create jobs in the near-term and enhance long-term economic growth by fostering commerce, communication, tourism, and trade. Unfortunately, policymakers have so far been unable to agree on how to pay for desired levels of highway spending. In the coming months, Congress and the President must identify and agree to a fiscally responsible solution to close the HTF shortfall.

The best approach to address the shortfall would be a long-term highway bill that aligns dedicated revenues with transportation spending. Transferring funds from general revenue into the HTF would be an acceptable alternative if and only if those funds were fully offset with real spending cuts and/or tax increases elsewhere in the budget.Under no circumstance should lawmakers rely on a deficit-financed (or gimmick-financed) general revenue transfer to fund the HTF.

In addition to addressing the funding shortfall facing our highways, policymakers should use the highway bill to ensure better prioritization of funding projects and, importantly, to reform the budgetary treatment of highway spending. The HTF has a unique treatment in the budget, making it immune to the normal forms of budget discipline that ensure policymakers account for the full costs of legislation they pass… (more) (NOTE: Options for savings within the HTF as well as to offset General Revenue transfers are listed later in the article.)

How much are fuel taxes? Is now “perfect” time to raise them?

The need for infrastructure improvements (roads, highways and bridges) is receiving increased attention due to their condition and the now substantially less cost for gas. Given the latter, some are now saying it is the ideal time to act.

A Monroe County Indiana County Council member presents a clear picture of state excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel and also, as of 2013, how some state fuel tax was diverted from road construction and maintenance and how the sales tax (yes, we also pay 7% sales tax on fuel in addition to the excise tax) on fuel does not go towards funding of roads at all.

With the current reduced gasoline cost some are saying now is the time to raise the fuel tax. It’s not just the state excise tax on fuel but also the federal excise tax on fuel. According to NPR, raises on fuel tax are on the table in many states around the country and have recently been approved in several. As a tax increase is contemplated the caveat is what will be the overall fuel price when oil prices rebound. It never pays to think only of the moment.

(Related source: Federal gas tax increase of 15 cents is coming…or is it?)

Potholes widen as (Indiana) struggles to pay for roads: Needs $7 billion in next 10 years

Maureen Hayden, News and Tribune CNHI Statehouse Bureau Chief 12/8/14 INDIANAPOLIS — Jim Meece, a commissioner in rural Parke County, was happy when the Legislature funneled about $100 million extra a year into road funds last year. The money didn’t … Continue reading