Thursday, December 11, 2008

“Pay me now, or pay me later.”

Highways are stimulus-plus

December 11, 2008

Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2008

Just about everyone in Washington agrees that another major economic stimulus plan is needed in the face of one of the gloomiest economies in recent history.

This time, with a new president in the wings, a new and welcome philosophy appears ready to come into play.
Democrats in Congress are talking of a public works bill that could range from $500 billion to $1 trillion, from which Texas could get as much as $7.9 billion.

This is aimed at creating jobs and sending out a wide economic ripple affect. It’s also aimed at crucial infrastructure needs. Call it stimulus plus.

Over the last eight years, the definition of an economic stimulus plan has been tax rebates to taxpayers in dribs and drabs. The most recent such package came and went, yet the economy continued to track downward.

Meanwhile, federal and state obligations have languished and America’s infrastructure has continued to take a beating.

In this corner we consistently point out the problem of a ballooning federal deficit. We have criticized unnecessary tax cuts and deficit spending alike. America faces a national debt of $11 trillion and growing.

However, if we are going to borrow to heat up the economy with hopes of resulting tax revenue, it makes the most sense to spend the money on what we need and on needs that will only get more expensive as we postpone action. Highways are the definition of such an obligation.
One debate in Washington is over which types of infrastructure works to fund. The debate is between “ready-to-go” projects, which could spend the money quickly, or long-range strategic projects, which would take longer but have deeper impact.

Waco and interests along Interstate 35 need to step forward and promote this strategic corridor, which is central to Texas’ long-range transportation needs.
Waco has been told that the only way it can expect a widening of the interstate through town is with toll roads. That would be rather dubious suggestion unless Waco reached the kind of gridlock experienced in Austin that would make people pay for such a contrivance.

I-35, connecting Mexico with the heartland, is as crucial a stretch of highway as this nation has.
Other crucial Waco-area needs were put on ice when the Texas Department of Transportation cut $225 million in projects for the Waco after the department discovered a $1.1 billion accounting error.

Neither Texas nor the country is keeping pace with a growing population in dealing with key infrastructure needs.

If the federal government is to borrow further, it should be toward meeting the proviso of the old oil-filter commercial:

“Pay me now, or pay me later.”

© 2008 Waco Tribune-Herald:

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