Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Road Group Official Decries Methods to Fund Highways

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Road Group Official Decries Methods to Fund Highways

Article excerpt

Low income Oklahomans pay more for state government than rich people do.

This is because of the regressive taxes levied on motor vehicles and motor fuel sales in the state.

Although Oklahoma leads the nation in getting its general fund revenue from transportation fees, the federal government also has its hand in Oklahomans' pockets, raising the cost of government even more. Oklahomans should be howling and protesting about these gross inequities in taxation, according to William D. Fay, president of the American Highway Users Alliance. "I'm all for a progressive income tax and feel that everyone should pay their fair share of the cost of government," Fay said during an interview preceding his speech before the Oklahoma Highway Users Federation annual meeting in Oklahoma City. "But your government gets more of its operating income from motor vehicle taxes and fees than it should. This is a regressive tax and forces poor people to pay more for government than rich people do." Motor vehicle fees and motor fuel taxes should be considered user fees and go only to pay for transportation-related projects. Oklahoma receives 19.5 percent of its annual budget from transportation fees and taxes, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation receives only 4 percent of the annual state budget for its projects, according to Transportation Secretary Neal McCaleb. "This is grossly unfair," Fay said. "I'm all for fairness in government. People who use the transportation system and tear up the roads buy more gasoline and diesel and they should be the ones paying for it. "People who don't use the roads, don't buy gas ... shouldn't pay for transportation projects. "But poor people, who generally have older (less fuel-efficient) cars pay the same motor vehicle fees and taxes as the rich do. Using this money to pay for government operation is unfair." Fay was lead-off hitter in a twilight transportation doubleheader in Oklahoma City. His views, however, were not necessarily mirrored by speakers at the Oklahoma Good Roads and Streets Association Transportation Forum that immediately followed the highway users group annual meeting. While Fay was highly critical of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), other speakers tended to talk about the need to get that bill reauthorized early in the next session of Congress. Fay called that bill "the biggest anti-highway highway bill ever passed," urging that participants of the two events contact their congressional delegations to get the law changed. "When people talk about intermodal, they are the ones who want to take highway money from highways and do something else with it," he said. Ironically, in the transportation forum, six groups representing most modes of transportation in Oklahoma formally set up a coalition to fight for more state money this year for transportation. …

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