Last week, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn made a point of exposing the
horrendous misuse of our gas tax dollars. Each time you buy gas, you
pay about 18 cents per gallon which is remitted to the federal
government. This money is supposed to be used to build and repair
roads. Coburn explained that a third of this money is being used for
items such as scenic beautification, bike paths, pedestrian walkways,
transportation museums and environmental concerns.
Coburn's testimony matches with what our local officials experience on
a regular basis. You can only imagine how frustrating it is for local
leaders who are fighting a desperate battle to repair roads to see how
money is siphoned off for these superfluous purposes -- while the
roads go unfunded.
Not only are our federal tax dollars inappropriately spent, but the
funds that are allowed to come back to state and local government for
paving roads do so with horrible, bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all
controls that handicap local leaders.
An example of this is the upcoming re-pavement of Broadway Road. Logan
County received funding for the road in part because it experiences an
extremely heavy traffic count (6000 per day) which is wearing away the
road surface. However, federal red tape won't let the county use this
money to pave the road where the heaviest traffic is located.
A federal rule requires that a road this busy cannot be paved with
federal funds unless it is widened and shoulder space is added. The
amount of funding does not come close to allowing these types of
improvements to occur. This means the road will be repaved farther to
the north where the widening is not necessary and the need for re-
paving is not nearly as strong.
Because of this federal rule, well-meaning though it may be, the worst
part of the road cannot be fixed while the part of the road that is
not so needy will receive a very nice repaving job. This means the
county must scramble to find a way to fix the heavily traveled part of
the road with other funding sources.
Recently, county officials from the central Oklahoma region were
called into a training session where they were coached on the rules
they should abide by because they receive federal funds (money they
took from us through the federal gas tax). An example of one of these
rules is a Title VI rule requiring local governments to produce
materials in multiple languages. You can only image how infuriating it
is for county officials who want to make improvements such as paving
roads to be told that instead of doing this, they have to spend money
producing their documents in foreign languages.
Another point of contention between federal and county government is
the fact that county government is required to produce an
environmental impact study for events as simple as the placement of a
road sign. What kind of world do we live in when taxpayers have to pay
for an environmental study just to put up a stop sign?
In my view, Oklahoma would be far better off by refusing to
participate in this ridiculous system and stop remitting gas tax money
to the federal government. Those funds would be used much more
efficiently if they were simply sent directly to ODOT and the local
governments without the federal filter allowing the federal government
to dictate their agenda.
State Representative Jason Murphey
Chairman Government Modernization Committee
State Capitol Building - Room #400B
2300 North Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
1(405) 557-7350 (Office)
1(405) 315-5064 (Cell)