Here is a question for our friends over at AFP and SaveJersey and the Reason Foundation: How is debt service a part of road construction?
Debt service isn't caused by the workers, contractors, or engineers who actually build the roads and bridges that we depend on. Debt service is caused by the political class of both parties.
Correct us if we are wrong, but wasn't it a Republican-controlled Legislature that in the 1990's uncapped the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) so that spending could spiral out of control? And then didn't successive administrations extend the life of the debt so they could borrow and spend more? Didn't they spend more and more while failing to raise the gas tax to pay for it?
Didn't they place us in the position we are in today, where it will take all of the 14 1/2 cents per gallon of gas that we currently pay to fund the TTF and the first 10 1/2 cents of any gas tax increase just to pay the interest on that debt our politicians ran up, year after year?
It pains us to see lawyer/ politicians like a certain GOP Assemblyman and lobbyist/ politicians like a certain GOP Senator blame blue-collar workers for the high cost of transportation construction and then make as part of that denunciation the high cost of paying interest on the debt that they ran up. Especially as their choice would be to run up that debt -- and those interest payments -- even further.
Do we really need to go through a very painful re-examination of who did what over the last two decades to put the TTF in the position it is in? Does anyone really believe that the GOP will come out unscathed once the blame has been apportioned? Let's depart from the Star-Wars meme for once and paraphrase Shakespeare, who reminds us that no cause, be it ever unspotted, has for it an army of all unspotted men.
Lacking any religious belief worthy of the name, some of the partisans in the TTF battle have imbued in it the stuff of a religious war. Heretics are called pigs, with some adherents calling for their death. The salivating gotchas and smell of overworked snark all shields the fact that this is a rather pedestrian debate over a means to an end.
Does anyone believe that we don't need roads and bridges? Does anyone not believe in the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, the universal law of decay -- that everything ultimately falls apart and disintegrates over time? Does anyone dispute that material things are not eternal?
So if we believe these things, then the question becomes how to pay for them. That is a question of the most mundane sort.
And yet it is with a religious fervor that SaveJersey would like to claim that the Reason Foundation is infallible, that its pronouncements are "confirmed." This on a day when any person paying attention to the Senate Budget Committee hearing would have seen the Reason Foundation embarrass itself by attempting to compare a dirt road in Texas to a highway in New Jersey.
If how we pay for roads and bridges has now become as religious a divide as transubstantiation, facts will not matter. It will all come down to belief and to which priest or priestess you follow. If, however, rational science still plays a role, we suggest bringing together those researchers from the Reason Foundation, with those from Rutgers University and elsewhere, to have them present their methods, discuss their differences, and using rational science, come to some useful conclusion -- more useful than a mere rhetorical device in some bizarre new liturgy.