Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

July 16, 2014

Stopgap

Congress puts patch on highway trust fund blowout

— Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.

That was before the advent of television, video games and other activities that allow modern kids to be active without really being active.

Kicking the can down the road is now an activity favored by some adults — in this case, members of Congress — because it allows them to be active without really being active.

Congress has developed an alarming habit of kicking the can down the road ... that is, applying temporary fixes to what have become permanent problems.

That’s why we have federal government shutdowns, sequesters and so forth.

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund from running dry by redirecting $10.8 billion in pension tax changes, customs fees and money from a fund used to repair leaky underground fuel storage tanks. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

Otherwise, the highway fund would run out of money next month. The federal government, which is already more than $17.5 trillion in debt, would be unable to give states the money they were promised.

This has been going on since 2008.

One reason the fund is coming up short is that for years, Congress tapped into it for other purposes. What once was a surplus in the trust fund also was used to camouflage the yearly federal budget deficit — a practice referred to as “using smoke and mirrors.”

The nation’s roads, bridges and other highway infrastructures have collectively deteriorated to an alarming extent because either the money hasn’t been available to maintain them, or there was a lack of legislative will to spend it for that purpose.

The problem is particularly bad in Western Maryland, where a severe cutback has developed in the road funding provided by the state to counties and municipalities.

It has been proposed to replenish the highway fund by raising the federal per-gallon tax by 18.4 cents on gasoline and 24.4 cents on diesel. These taxes haven’t been raised in more than 20 years.

However, the cost of fuel is already ruinous, and those in Congress are aware that tacking even more onto the bill would likely result in their being subjected to carnage on election day. It also might wreak havoc upon an already fragile economy. What to do? Nobody really knows.

“Kicking the can down the road” is an appropriate cliche to apply to this predicament.

So is “The chickens are coming home to roost.”

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • Time to do it Time to do it

    It never made sense that criminal background checks were not made on medical license applications in Maryland. Fortunately — for the protection everybody — the background investigations may soon be a matter of routine.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Get involved Get involved

    Cumberland residents who want to make an impact on their community have an opportunity in that the city is seeking applicants for five of its boards.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • If we don’t sell it to them, somebody else will

    The front page article on coal exports by AP writer Dina Cappiello is one of the most asinine and biased “news” articles I’ve read (“Not in my backyard: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad,” July 29 Times-News, Page 1A).

    July 30, 2014

  • Not a villain Not a villain

    Time was that we looked for heroes. Heroes of the make-believe variety have sold a lot of comic books. We also had real-life heroes like Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, whose deaths the whole nation mourned.
    These days, we seem to be more interested in looking for villains. “Vote for me because I’m the good guy” has taken a back seat to “Don’t vote for him, because he’s the bad guy.”

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • About time About time

    Although many Cumberland streets are in need of repair and improvements, the decision by city and county officials to address Greene Street is a good one.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where is it?

    Once upon a time, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce held its annual conventions at the Bedford Springs resort hotel near Bedford, which is in Pennsylvania.

    July 28, 2014

  • Korean War Korean War

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sloppy lawmaking is to blame

    July 27, 2014

  • C-minus grade C-minus grade

    If a survey conducted by Thumbtack.com and the Kaufman Foundation is an accurate portrayal, Maryland has a long way to go to become a business-friendly state.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big loophole Big loophole

    How ironic — and how sad — that the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority plans a closed executive session to discuss the open meetings law.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story