Where and who makes decisions is important for any organization as it grows and becomes more complex. For government, this was hotly debated since the inception of a “United States of America.” This is fundamental to unraveling the fiscal crisis our communities and nation faces. Much of the political roadblocks to any compromise is rooted in a fundamental view rooted in what gets decided where. This has evolved into an almost religious fervor and as such is beyond any reason or common sense.
Let’s consider highways for a moment. Surely, these are viewed as valuable and central to the good functioning of our society, our local communities and even the overall economic welfare of our country. So how are our highways funded and maintained? Basically, Federal dollars are allocated, by political proxy, seniority and horse trading to fund Interstates highways and US Highways.
When you are talking about $260 billion per year in tax revenue being divvied up by political fiat, you have leave a lot on the table for abuse, mismanagement and just plain old duplication.
If we want to balance the issue of accountability with common purpose, then you need a framework for decentralized decision making. Simply collecting money at a higher level, the federal in this case, builds bureaucracy and money is spent not on roads, but on political horsetrading and oversight. Certainly, US Interstates and US Highways should be maintained by a higher level.
State highways should be maintained and built by the state and local roads by local authorities. Seems simple. The higher the decision making goes the more the potential for “overhead or oversight” using up more and more of every dollar. So, if building and maintaining roads is the goal, the minimum should be sent to Washington. How much is the minimum?
This really is a political decision, but if we agreed on a pay as you go (which means fuel taxes) for source of funding, which means fuel taxes, then you would at least know where the money was coming from. This would likely mean higher gas taxes, but more money spent on actual roads and maintenance that mattered and less on bureaucracy.
There are going to be times when larger issues, such as transit funding and interstate roads need to be hammered out. There is no easy solution to this.
So what I am proposing is that road use should determine the amount of money allocated for each level of highway governance. This should be collected at the lowest level possible. I’d like to see some formulas discussed, debated and agreed upon. The patronage system of funding needs to go. This is my bottom line.
Common purpose is not owned by the Democratic caucus nor is self determination owned by the Republicans.
The same kind of discussions need to happen for education, environmental oversight and remediation and others as well. This does not have to be a purely political football. Let the discussion begin.