Greeson: As far as passing taxes goes, a gas tax will bring relief

Greeson: As far as passing taxes goes, a gas tax will bring relief

April 20th, 2017 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

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Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

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On three different pages of Wednesday's Times Free Press, there were stories detailing the growing issues with our roads.

In truth, there are few bigger responsibilities of our elected leadership than the state of roads. Count schools, health care and public safety right up there.

Almost all taxpayers use roads.

Despite their heavy use, roads have routinely been neglected.

With that knowledge — and the staggering number AAA cited Tuesday that the sad state of our roads locally cost each Chattanoogan almost $1,500 per year — the state leaders made the right call backing Gov. Haslam's gas tax.

This is not about political position. This is about political practicality.

Those three stories in Wednesday's paper included a preview of the governor's efforts to get the gas tax passed and the AAA story, which featured some eye-popping stats.

Among them:

  •  TRIP, a national transportation research group based in Washington, D.C., claims Tennesseans lose $6 billion a year because of vehicle damage from decaying roads, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays;
  •  Travel on Tennessee roads increased almost 10 percent from 2013-16;
  •  One third (33 percent) of local and state-managed roads are in poor or mediocre condition;

The third story was a few paragraphs in a collection of short news items that reflected the growing strain on the funding for state roads. The open container law was shelved again, meaning another $18 million from this year's budget that would have been offered from the federal government must be redirected to monitor and enforce drinking and driving laws.

We are at a breaking point, and it flips a double- edged argument at the conservatives against the tax, primarily because most conservatives are against almost all new taxes. Hey, I get it, and I am conservative, too.

Except this.

How many times have we heard the important clamor for reeling in federal spending, in large part because we don't want to leave our kids with a monster debt burden? It's a noble argument.

But do we want to leave our kids with a dilapidated road system that will cost three times more a decade from now?

Do we want new taxes? Of course not. That's like asking if we want a root canal.

We may not want a root canal, but if we ignore the fact that we need that work done, the outcome will be far more painful — and ultimately more expensive — than handling it in the moment.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343. His "Right to the Point" column runs on Page A2 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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