Our show this week makes clear the fact that roads have become more expensive as costs for materials have risen, and revenue from gas tax has fallen as cars become more fuel efficient, not to mention the tax breaks for cars which drive the roads, but use alternative fuel.
While not covered extensively in the show, there is also the stark reality that if you defer maintenance on roads, the costs of repair increase exponentially. Putting repair off until you can better afford to bring it back to standard will cost more than if you had maintained it all along.
The debate so far has been centered on how to fund the maintenance of our highways and roads in the state. While I am generally in favor of user based fees, it doesn’t work for public schools and looking forward, it may not work for roads. There are so many things that happen on roads that even non users take advantage of. Say for example what if you don’t drive, but you need an ambulance that involves the roads. So ethically, we all should bear some of the burden for roads, whether we have a car or not.
Beyond ethical, there are practical considerations as well. There comes a point when increased taxes on fuels and registration will start to choke commerce and prosperity. Motor tourists may avoid driving through Utah because of the fuel, High in state fuel costs my make a manufacturer think twice about expanding their operation into Utah. All of us, whether we use roads directly or not would be affected by such scenarios.
The reality of the situation demands that we look at what we really want. If we want the convenience and more importantly the prosperity that comes from having some 43,000 miles of roads available for us to access our cities, counties, recreation destinations, ranches and farms, then there is a price to pay for it. That price is fixed wishing it to cost less will not change the price tag. If we want to spend less, then we need to have less, in other words close roads. We need to remind ourselves that each time we ask government to provide a convenience to us, there is a cost to build it (one time) but there is a cost to maintain it too, and that cost will be with us always.
Our elected county leaders know full well, that it is never popular to take anything away from people who have grown accustomed to it…. even if they knew that it was someday going to happen. Our job as citizens is to be aware and responsible about what we petition our leaders to do for us because ultimately we will have to pay for it with our taxes, and they shouldn’t have to with their jobs.
Just my thoughts. What are yours?