Friday, December 30, 2005

Stinky Wilmont and the Secret Spy Ring

Back in 1961, lunch at Millville Grade School was 27 cents. They would throw in a half-pint of Best Ever milk for an extra 3 cents. White, of course. Chocolate was a nickel. Every Monday, Mom would issue each of us $1.50, our share of the milk check, and we were set for the week.

Things worked out pretty well like that, except for the time that Stinky Wilmont talked me into buying that spy ring with the secret compartment. I mostly wound up with an empty belly and a green finger. It did, however, teach me a valuable lesson about the proper utilization of funds.

The Indiana Department of Transportation has announced that it will be canceling or postponing many road projects because of a $2.1 billion shortfall over the next ten years. When you watch the numbers spin on the pump while filling your vehicle, you have to wonder how they could run out of money. But if you look at how that tax money is being spent, it’s a little more understandable.

It seems reasonable to expect that road use taxes should be used for the construction and maintenance of public roads. At least it seems reasonable to me. Apparently it doesn’t seem reasonable to the people we send to Washington. When Congress passed its’ $284 billion highway bill, it managed to slip in some items that might not be considered road worthy. I’m not sure why $3 million of the taxes we pay on gasoline should support the Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio. Or why $4 million should be used to remove graffiti in Brooklyn (I thought people in Brooklyn liked graffiti). Or why $1.5 million should be used on horse trails in Virginia. In all, the highway bill spends billions of dollars on 4000 projects that have nothing to do with roads.

Not that Indiana was left out in the cold. The Children’s’ Museum in Indianapolis received $14million. Even locally, we find gas and wheel tax money being spent on the Cardinal Greenway and the Red Tail Conservancy. No doubt worthy and commendable projects, but certainly not falling under the category of roads.

More and more, our elected officials in Washington seem to be losing their grip on fiscal responsibility, which is why I was happy to hear there is a movement in the works to reduce the federal highway tax from 18 cents per gallon to 2 cents per gallon, and allow the states to collect and spend the money where it belongs, on the roads.

It seems we stand a better chance of holding our state and local officials accountable for errant spending. That, or we could send Stinky Wilmont to Washington to give them a lesson or two on how to spend our money.



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