Highway Coffee

This morning I had the pleasure to sit down and have a cup of coffee with a staff member from Congresswoman Kristi Noem office, and a few other folks. Various issues were discussed, including education, the budget, etc.

Eventually the discussion came around to Congresswoman Noem inviting Congressman John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, to Pierre on August 19. See the press release here.  As it turns out the gentleman from Florida will or has introduced a bill that states that we will only spend was is taken in through fuel taxes and other use fees to maintain roads and bridges.

That sounds pretty good doesn’t it, or does it?

State Senator Mike Vehle (Mitchell ? R) who also had some coffee, mentioned that the current federal gas tax rate was at 18.4 cents per gallon and hasn’t changed since 1993.  South Dakota has 22 cents per gallon.   Sen. Vehle also mentioned that as a road deteriorates, the cost per lane mile to maintain that highway increases.  Of course, those costs goes up yearly. Let’s add in to the mix as gas prices go up, people drive less, and buy more fuel efficient cars, and less gas purchased, leads to less tax revenue.

If the Federal government will hand out what it takes in, then the states are responsible for picking up the rest.  Maintaining highways in Arizona is a lot different than in the Dakotas, and the cost is going be much different as well tax base.

How do we fund the highways?

32 Replies to “Highway Coffee”

  1. CaveMan

    Listen very carefully to what Senator Vehle says. Write it down. Try to memorize it. Nobody in South Dakota has a better handle on our highway infastructure costs than Mike Vehle.

    1. MC Post author

      I have no doubt he does. Just listening to him speak, he knew the numbers, he knew the difference between excellent, fair and poor highways.

      The problem still remains. Less money coming in for roads, and demand for better roads increasing.

  2. J Rae

    Kristi, you ask “What does the jump to Linux make me?”

    Let’s see it’s free and built through a collaborative group of hippies working towards a common good, usually on their employers time. The French and Russians are a couple of the many countries that are looking to make it a standard. … Good for you! It’s better, but I won’t touch that question with a 10 foot pole.

  3. Troy Jones

    I love and respect Mike Vehle.

    This said, until we start abadoning highways built 50 years ago when population distribution was different, I dont want to hear about tax increase. Prove you are thinking within the reality of today first.

  4. Anonymous

    I will say this about the Dems and Nesselhuff. Obviously Medicare isn’t upsetting people like they thought it would or they would be rallying and being obnoxious at Noem meetings.

    1. Job Creator

      They probably don’t think that’s necessary right now, with Congress having an 82% disapproval rating. Maybe they think she’s doing a good enough job on her own.

        1. Anonymous

          Since your statistical skills seem to consist of coin flipping, I will take your “bet”.

          1. Job Creator

            You’re on. I am for kicking every incumbent out of office. They are not part of the solution they are part of the problem. We know that the overwhelming majority of people who hang out here will vote for anyone with an “R” behind their name. The Independents are thinking way differently.

  5. Fred

    Mike V is the man! He does know the transportation landscape inside and out. When Representative Noem has her meeting on river flooding and brings in Representative Mica (R-FL and chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) you can be sure Senator Vehle will be there. He will be making the case for how transportation needs across the country are not evenly distributed and states like South Dakota are, by necessity, states which receive more than they give. Representative Mica believes in an even, not equitable, distribution of funds.

    I was surprised that you didn’t speak to Representative Carson’s question about raising the cap on Social Security contributions. Also, what was your take on Rep Noem’s staffer in running the meeting? Was it more her listening or her talking?

    1. MC Post author

      I have found for me personally, it is best if I keep my mouth shut at such events.

      I need to dig into the Social Security issue a bit more before I start commenting on Representative Carson question about raising the cap Social Security. There is a lot of information, and misinformation out there, it takes time to sort through it all.

      For those of you not in attendance, Representative Carson asked about raising the cap on income of those contributing to the program.

  6. DDC

    The solution is simple, eliminate the federal gas tax and raise the state gas tax to match current levels. Stop filtering the money through D.C. and begging to get it back. Turn I-29 & I-90 into toll roads.

      1. DDC

        Yep, but the magic money machine is going to run out of ink eventually.

        Besides, do you really think that all that free money gets spent on necessary projects and none of it gets wasted?

          1. DDC

            Cost outweighing the benefit.

            An example would be all the money that has been spent on the Wessington Springs airport. Yet another would be converting SD 34/37 to 4 lanes a few years back. Neither of those things needed to be done and were a waste of money.

            Then there’s always the inefficiencies related to sending money through a massive bureaucracy.

            Then there is the whole improper payments and fraud issues.

            1. Job Creator

              I think we’re getting into the appetitive realm here. I’m not disagreeing with you, but without quantification, it seems like opinion. Again, not knocking your opinion, I would like to see some facts and figures behind it. For instance, did that four-lane highway make it safer and perhaps save lives?

              Sound walls are so common in urban areas – I guess this is a sign that Sioux Falls is becoming more urban. You can drive quite a ways anymore and still be in Sioux Falls. I guess the state could choose to not take the money and leave the wall out if they really wanted to. I am not sure the state government is the shining example of the best way to spend money. Lots of questions about that now.

              Agreed the bureaucracy – even a small one – breeds inefficiencies. Just like any organization. I have never worked for the government, but back early in my career when I was an employee, the most inefficient organization I was ever around was the multinational corporation I worked for.
              The wasted so much money…

              Regardless of what the government people are doing, I am getting up every single morning trying to create another job.

  7. MC Post author

    One of the ideas that was batted around was to eliminate the gas tax and tax the miles travel on various roads, the reimburse those entities for amount those roads were used. In a similar manner that commercial truckers pay their road taxes.

    Thoughts?

    1. PNR

      A gas tax is a mileage tax – just that it penalizes less fuel efficient vehicles.

      But I do not want to get into a place where I have to report to the government how many miles I drive on which roads. They track way more information about citizens than they should already. So the only way to do this would be to turn as many roads as possible into toll roads – which means we should be able to privatize those roads, too. Hhhmmm. Maybe caheidelberger is on to something…

  8. caheidelberger

    What are you talking about? Taxes are evil. The free market will build all the roads we need. Besides, Kristi’s horses run better on dirt than on pavement. Giddyup!

  9. springer

    Isn’t maintaining infrastructure one of the responsibilities of gov’t? Maybe the gov’t should get its nose out of things that are NOT its responsibility and instead focus on things that ARE its responsibility!

  10. SDMike

    Here is a funding source that would work – stop giving road tax money to build bike trials and other recreational projects – limit them to only roads – let the bike riders pay for their bike trails – why are they exempt???

  11. MOSES

    You guys actually need some one to tell you how bad the roads are in S.D. Did this guy drive here or fly.What a waste of money to bring him in as you conservatives want to save money , what a sham.

  12. Snapdragon

    The solution is for the federal government to completely stop funding the construction and repair of every road that is not an interstate highway or a US highway. States, counties, cities and townships can fund their own roads and bridges.

    The federal government simply cannot afford to fund projects at every level of government, and one might question whether the feds could ever afford to do so. Time to scale back.

    Sure is nice when the federal government just drops money on us to build Phillips to the Falls, or move railroad tracks for aesthetic purposes, or replace a bridge on 41st Street, or build flood control berms in Sioux Falls, or build a water pipeline to Sioux Falls, but why? WHY???

    Instead of these being paid for by the Chinese and our grandkids, Sioux Falls ought to either fund this stuff itself or just not do any projects it is unwilling to fund for itself. The same is true for state and county projects funded by federal dollars. The feds should not have any concern – financially or otherwise – about whether state and local projects get built.

    1. Snapdragon

      PS: Kristi Noem said we need to have an adult conversation. If she were an adult she would be having a conversation about this. She better grow up by next year or we’ll find an adult to run against her in the primary.