I don’t guess anyone driving down the road is happy with the litter, and overgrown weeds, along our highways. COVID certainly reduced congestion – but traffic jams will return, and potholes are there waiting.
Poor judgements by the Department of Transportation led to reckless spending which landed the department, and our highways, in a ditch. Workers were laid off, litter pickup services stopped, roads we needed to build were put on hold. Staring at the mess DOT had created the General Assembly stepped in, adding legislative appointees, like me, to the Transportation Board to try to improve oversight. But now, an even bigger crisis is looming.
Two-thirds of the money the state spends to build and maintain highways comes from one source – the gas tax. It works like this: Every time you fill up your car at the service station you pay a gas tax – which means what you pay is based on the amount of miles you drive. In effect, what you pay depends on how much you use and wear down roads. It’s a user fee.
But the days when almost everyone drove a gas-powered car are past. Today many people drive electric cars and while they use and wear down roads – just like people who drive gas cars – they pay no tax to build or repair highways.
Our biggest automakers are working to accelerate the shift to electric cars, and liberals, from President Biden on down, agree – which is fine. But, at the same time, how will we pay to build and maintain our highways? After all, whether you drive an electric car, or a gas-powered car potholes and traffic jams are a problem. It’s also a looming economic threat, and our biggest cities – the pillars of our economy – will be hit the hardest.
There’s a way to fix the problem but, as often happens, politics is standing in the way. To keep highway funding adequate every driver, whether he drives a gas car or electric car, needs to pay a fair share to help build and maintain roads. Governor Cooper and the Transportation Department know that. But to suggest electric car drivers pay a ‘user fee’ – the same way gas car drivers do – draws the wrath of the left. So many politicians remain silent. But how long can we go on without building roads and fixing potholes?