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No reason to depend on Washington for roads

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2014-07-21 09:07

The following article appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News on July 20, 2014. Although legislation has passed the House (and will likely pass the Senate soon) to temporarily prop up the highway program and avoid an immediate crisis, the need for fundamental change in how America builds and maintains its infrastructure remains.

The next manufactured crisis coming from Washington, DC involves the federal highway program. According to news reports, the Federal Highway Trust Fund is on the cusp of insolvency, with a cash shortage looming before the end of July. Despite the deadline, lawmakers are at an impasse over how to replenish an account that funds the nation’s highway projects.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is warning states would, on average, see a 28 percent reduction in federal dollars to cover the costs of current needs if additional funding is not found. One potential source of funding is a hike in the federal gas tax.

In its current form, the federal highway program is financed through an 18.4 cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and a 24.4 cent tax on diesel fuel. Unfortunately, while the gas tax more closely resembles a user fee than other taxes charged by Washington, it isn’t. If it were a user-fee, gas taxes would finance roads, bridges and other items that benefit motorists who pay the tax. Instead, over the past decade, Congress has diverted well over $55 billion of gas taxes to non-highway projects, most notably mass transit.

Whether you want more mass transit or less, the fact is that transit riders don’t pay the gas tax, rather motorists subsidize these systems nationwide. Ideally, Congress would create transportation policy under the principal of “user pays.”

Unfortunately, Washington seems to be utterly incapable of making even the most basic reforms. Worse, transportation policies that work in New York and Chicago may not work so well in Albuquerque or Farmington, New Mexico.

The solution is simple: get Washington out of transportation policy and hand it back to the states. After all, as the Highway Program currently operates, Washington simply takes in the gas tax money, adds a bunch of requirements (like costly Davis-Bacon labor rules), diverts for pet projects and mass transit, and returns the money to the states.

This is silly. Washington played an important role in the creation of the Interstate Highway System, but that was completed in 1992.

Several bills have been introduced in Washington over the years that would devolve all or most of the program – thereby eliminating the federal gas tax – to the various states. The latest proposal called the “Transportation Empowerment Act” was introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rep. Tom Graves (Georgia).

States would then be able to experiment with transportation policies that make sense for their own populations. Gas taxes could be raised or lowered. Or, as Oregon is considering, motorists could be charged based on miles driven. Priorities like transit could be emphasized or reduced also depending on the particular state.

Lastly, absent federal mandates favoring prevailing wage laws, Davis-Bacon states could decide for themselves whether they want to pay union rates for construction projects, build 15 percent more infrastructure, or save taxpayers up to 15 percent. New Mexico is a Davis-Bacon state, but neighboring Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma are not. Amazingly, Texas is the only adjacent state that, like New Mexico, unnecessarily inflates labor rates on public works projects.

Like so many things, the federal government undertook a specific project like the Interstate Highway System only to refuse to see its size and scope reduced. There is no reason for a disagreement in Washington to negatively impact New Mexico roads and bridges, but that is the system Congress has saddled us with.

We at the Rio Grande Foundation have often criticized policies enacted in Santa Fe, but there is no doubt that Santa Fe would do a better job than Washington. And, given innovation and competition from neighboring states to enact the best, most-efficient transportation system, I believe that Santa Fe would improve.

To date, none of New Mexico’s congressional representatives has co-sponsored this legislation or any bill that would really reform the federal transportation system. Unfortunately, that means New Mexico will continue to rely on the whims of a dysfunctional Washington for something as basic as transportation funding.

Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

New Mexico oilman named to Pecos River commission - Las Cruces Sun-News

New Mexico News from Google ... - Mon, 2014-07-21 09:04

New Mexico oilman named to Pecos River commission
Las Cruces Sun-News
SANTA FE - A Roswell oil company executive has been named to a commission that oversees a compact between New Mexico and Texas governing Pecos River water. Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Ray Willis to the Pecos River Compact Commission.

and more »
Categories: News

AOL.com Article - Fugitive found in Nepal back in New Mexico custody - AOL News (blog)

New Mexico News from Google ... - Mon, 2014-07-21 08:33

AOL.com Article - Fugitive found in Nepal back in New Mexico custody
AOL News (blog)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A New Mexico man who fled sex abuse and kidnapping charges 14 years ago returned to the state Saturday following his capture in Nepal, the FBI said. Neil Stammer, 47, arrived in the afternoon at the Albuquerque International ...

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Housing prices rising in New Mexico - Albuquerque Business First (blog)

New Mexico News from Google ... - Mon, 2014-07-21 07:02

Housing prices rising in New Mexico
Albuquerque Business First (blog)
There was a 3.6 percent increase in the number of homes sold in New Mexico in June compared to last year and a .7 percent increase in the median sales price when comparing the two months. The numbers were released by the REALTORS Association of ...
Metro seeing some economic uptick, small towns still strugglingKOB.com

all 5 news articles »
Categories: News

Hot tub flies13 stories above Las Vegas strip

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
The hot tub was a temporary attraction as it flew over the Vegas strip. 
Categories: News

To solve immigration crisis Obama, Congress must begin with border security

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
The humanitarian crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children streaming across the U.S.-Mexican border not only poses painful immediate policy choices, but further confounds our already polarized national dialogue on long-term immigration policy.
Categories: News

Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to deploy up to 1,000 guardsmen to border

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Gov. Rick Perry said Monday he is deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops over the next month to the Texas-Mexico border to combat criminals that Republican state leaders say are exploiting a surge of children and families entering the U.S. illegally.
Categories: News

Louisiana - A lock to win the Sun Belt Conference

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Sun Belt Conference moves from eight to 11 teams this season but there is only one squad with a legitimate chance to win the league title - Louisiana.Last year, the Ragin' Cajuns tied Arkansas State for the top spot at 5-2
Categories: News

Bulls re-sign Hinrich

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Bulls re-signed guard Kirk Hinrich on Monday to an undisclosed contract.Hinrich averaged 9.1 points and 3.9 assists in 73 games with the Bulls last season
Categories: News

Obama's LGBT Executive Order endangers religious liberty

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
President Obama signed an executive order Monday barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – ignoring the pleas of Christian and other faith leaders to include an exemption for religious organizations.
Categories: News

Perry raises stakes in border showdown

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Texas Governor expected to order National Guard to border to stem ongoing surge in illegal immigration.
Categories: News

Americans unsure how to determine quality of doctors, poll finds

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Americans consider insurance and a good bedside manner in choosing a doctor, but will that doctor provide high-quality care? A new poll shows that people don't know how to determine that.
Categories: News

On Roman holiday, NYC mayor chats with Vatican's No. 2 about migration, a hot issue back home

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
New York City's mayor has paid a call on Pope Francis' top aide to discuss migration issues.
Categories: News

Firefighters could get help against Washington wildfires from lighter winds, cooler temps

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Forecasters say calmer winds and cooler temperatures are headed for a fire-scorched region of Washington state, conditions that could help firefighters in their battle against wildfires that have charred hundreds of square miles of terrain.
Categories: News

3 more diagnosed with rare plague in Colorado

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Three more people in Colorado have been diagnosed with the plague after coming in contact with an infected dog whose owner contracted a life-threatening form of the disease, state health officials said on Friday.
Categories: News

7 popular tourist traps — and where to go instead

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Why are some places just so popular?
Categories: News

Cooler weather forecast to aid fight against Washington state wildfires

New Mexico News from FoxNews.com ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
Calmer winds and cooler temperatures were allowing firefighters to go on the offensive Monday against a destructive wildfire that has charred hundreds of square miles of terrain in Washington State.
Categories: News

Three New Mexico teens arrested in killings of homeless men - CBS News

New Mexico News from Google ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 18:51

CBS News

Three New Mexico teens arrested in killings of homeless men
CBS News
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Three teenagers ganged up on two homeless men and fatally beat them before leaving their bodies nearly unrecognizable, Albuquerque police said Sunday. Alex Rios, 18, and two boys, ages 16 and 15, are being held in Bernalillo ...

Categories: News

Operator of New Mexico nuclear dump reaped $1.9 million bonus after ... - Fox News

New Mexico News from Google ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 17:17

WEAR

Operator of New Mexico nuclear dump reaped $1.9 million bonus after ...
Fox News
CARLSBAD, N.M. – The contractor that operates the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico received a $1.9 million bonus just five days after an underground truck fire closed the facility. The Albuquerque Journal ...
US nuke plant operator entangled in new scandleShanghai Daily (subscription)

all 72 news articles »
Categories: News

DNA testing helps New Mexico genealogists fill in family trees - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico News from Google ... - Sun, 2014-07-20 00:06

DNA testing helps New Mexico genealogists fill in family trees
Albuquerque Journal
“When the lineage you're following disappears, we call that a brick wall in genealogy or in New Mexico, an adobe wall,” explains genealogist Henrietta Martínez Christmas of Corrales, who writes and lectures on the topic. One of the most common barriers ...

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