President Bush may use his veto stamp for the first time in the coming days, as the 2005 Transportation budget headed for his desk has burgeoned to $295 billion, $11 billion more than the limit he set previously. But is $284 billion that much more reasonable?
Sure, states benefit from federal transportation funding, Arizona is set to receive $75 million to fund light rail, but when you consider where all that money is coming from, it seems less like a boon for Arizona and more like a boondoggle.
About 85 percent of Federal transportation funding comes primarily from the federal gas tax, which amounts to more than 18 cents a gallon at the pump. So, that $75 million in light rail funding came out of your pocket. It seems pretty silly to send all that money to Washington, just so they can send some of it back to us, with instructions as to how we should spend it.
Repealing the federal gas tax wouldn't cost us anything. We could very well come out ahead, with more money for public projects and more money in our pockets, if we replaced it with a lower state tax that filled Arizona's coffers directly instead of first routing tax dollars through Washington.
Profligate projects like light rail might seem a lot more palatable when someone else is paying for them; but reach far enough into that bag of money the federal government is handing the state and you will find your hand in your own pocket.