Today’s Courier Herald Column:
9th District Georgia Congressman Tom Graves has penned an editorial for the Atlanta Journal Constitution calling for an end to the 55 year old Federal Highway Trust Fund and the associated federal motor fuels tax. Graves calls the Eisenhower interstate highway system “complete” and that “the central government’s job is done.”
The current federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon, and is set to expire. Congress is working on a temporary 6 month extension of the program while a longer term agreement on the future of the project types and related funding levels can be negotiated. Conservatives are beginning to balk at a program that has long been used to sell “jobs” and represented pork brought home to the district. Of particular note to some, such as Graves, is the disparity of funds sent to Washington over the life of the program versus funds returned to Georgia.
Graves cites a net deficit of funds paid versus projects funded from 2005 to 2009 of $839 Million, or $.89 returned for every dollar collected. Graves further claims Georgia has received only $.848 cents on the dollar since the program’s inception, calling that return “highway robbery”.
Said Graves, “I believe the federal government has mishandled our gas-tax revenues and mistreated states such as Georgia, and it’s not hard to understand why. A big pile of money in Washington is like flypaper for political agendas, lobbyists, special interests and earmarks. The Highway Trust Fund is no exception, and it’s being drained for projects that have absolutely nothing to do with highways.” Read more
The AJC is reporting that GDOT Commissioner Vance Smith has resigned:
State Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith has resigned effective Dec. 31, following a two-and-a-half-hour closed-door meeting of his board.
The Department of Transportation’s 13-member board hires and fires the commissioner by a majority vote. Board Chairman Rudy Bowen said the board felt it was time to “go in a different direction.” DOT’s director of operations, Keith Golden, was appointed deputy commissioner and will fill in as interim commissioner until the board hires a new commissioner, Bowen said. Smith will serve in an advisory capacity until then.
The board elected Smith, a 17-year Republican state representative from Pine Mountain, as DOT commissioner in June 2009. At the time board members saw him as a traditionalist antidote to the activist, controversial tenure of Gena Evans, who was ousted in February 2009. But Smith turned out to have his own issues.
While his supporters praised him for restoring morale at the department, even they seemed unable to explain his inaction in the face of clear directives from the board to fill key positions with strong full-time candidates.
I had heard back in May, I believe, that Smith was going to be pushed out during the summer, which I was told also had some to do with the mess on Metro Atlanta during the snowstorm earlier this year as well as the aforementioned issues noted by the AJC.
To appease my family By popular request, here is the link to my segment on WXIA/11 Alive news last evening. I had a polite conversation with SpaceyG regarding our snow/ice event and the Governor, DOT, and Atlanta Mayor’s response to the crisis.
I appreciate WXIA’s invitation, and enjoyed their hospitality before and after the live shot. It was clear they’ve been working nearly around the clock, and there a lot of us who want normal schedules back.
As for the roads, well, it should be in the 40’s on Saturday. 10 day weekend!
Updated: We now have video of Buzz Brockway’s interview with Doug Richards here.
And let’s extend this discussion beyond “Hey, I’m on the Tee-vee” to Buzz’s question. Should Georgia and local governements invest more in snow readiness, or should we accept that the opportunity cost is too high in a shrinking budget environment?