I have to start with this fun little story. Peter Hutchinson, Independence Party candidate for Governor has released his transportation policy. If elected, Hutchinson proposes to:
- Fine Drivers who cause accidents via distracted driving over and above the current system.
- Ban the use of cell phones while you are driving.
- Levy a $.10 a gallon tax on gasoline (above the current $.27 per gallon that the state currently charges).
- Earmark 1/4 of 1 percent of the current 6.5% sales tax for roads
- Build toll roads
- Build more light rail/commuter rail/bus lines.
OK - where to start.....I guess at the top...
1) Fine distracted drivers - What Mr. Hutchinson proposes is that if an officer sees a half eaten burger or a tube of mascara or some other "proof" on distraction, you would be deemed to have been at fault (whether you were at faul to or not) and fined more. He saids the reason is to "...pay for the inconvenience caused to thousands of other motorists backed up behind accident sites..." Now I will be the first to admit that being stuck in a gapers back-up is no fun at all. However, if you are going to do that, why not fine all of the gapers that are causing the back up in the FIRST PLACE!
2) Ban the use of Cell phones when driving. I know all of us have seen the cell phone driver - weaving between lanes with no turn signal, driving 10 miles an hour slower than the posted speed limit, watching the guy in front (or beside) you take their eyes off of the road to fumble with the phone, but really....what's next, banning smoking while driving? Wait - this is Minnesota - forget I said that!!!!!
3) Levy an additional $.10 a gallon tax on fuel. Oh boy was his timing off on this announcement! The price of gas in Minesota spikes up $.20 to $3.19 per gallon and he announces that he wants a new gas tax. People are screaming about the price of gas already - can you imagine how bad it will be after he raises the gas tax?
4) Earmark 1/4 of the current sales tax to roads. The reasoning for this this is because the MN Department of Transportation "doesn't have the money" to build the roads needed in the state. The problem with that is, this last budget was set up based on a very large deficit. However, the budget bienium that is coming up this year the state has a budget SURPLUS! That is going to make a huge difference in how the state plans to spend money.
5) Build more toll roads - I grew up in the Chicago area with toll roads everywhere. The claim here is that toll roads will raise money to spend on rebuilding roads. The problem with that thought is that the roads will still be in a constant state of disrepair while people debate whose roads are in more dire need of repair!
6) Build more light rail/commuter rail/ bus lines. I grew up along the Chicago Northwestern Commuter rail line. I love commuter rail! I wish we had commuter rail in Minneapolis. HOWEVER.....that commuter rail line was built long before the inner and outer ring suburbs were built up. It is too late now, for the state to buy land to build rail lines. Commuter rail now is cost prohibitive and we have all seen what a boondoggle Governor Ventura's light rail has been.
Mr. Hutchinson says that he is proposing this because "There is nothing that frustrates the people of Minnesota more." than gridlock. I will absolutely concur with Mr. Hutchinson's statement, however to be blunt, this state does not know the MEANING of gridlock. Imagine (if you will) 6 lanes of bumper to bumper traffic...crawling along at 5 miles an hour because the lanes are all stopping for a toll booth. Imagine (if you will) having to add another 4 hours to your 9 hour work day because it takes you 2 hours to get to and from work - on commuter rail! Imagine having to plan to drive 3 hours to get from Blaine to Eden Prairie (because of toll booth back ups)! That is what Chicago drivers face day in and day out...and that is WITH commuter rail and tool booths and much wider roads than we have here! Commuter rail is not the only answer, toll booths are not the answer, carpooling is part of the answer but it is not the only answer. The main portion of the answer is responsible government that does not overspend it's budget. Yes that means that there are some months when the budget is tight and we can't spend what we want to, but that is life as an adult. Something the DFL (and Peter Hutchinson) need to remember.
Cross posted at Ladies Logic