Thursday, August 2, 2007

We’ve been down this road before

With most state legislatures done for the year, many are taking time now to discuss how best to fill holes in budgets that will need to be confronted once the calendar turns over. Among those budgets where lawmakers seemingly are always trying to fit pieces of the puzzle together is transportation.

In my time covering state legislative issues I’ve grown accustomed to the practice. I know that for the first half of the year I will devote the bulk of my coverage following issues as they make their way through statehouses. Once the calendar turns to July and only about 10 states remain in active sessions, I know that my news searches will start uncovering talks around the country about what must be done for a given state to do what is needed to keep their transportation systems functioning. Lawmakers invariably are told by state transportation officials or other road-related groups about possible options to pay for needed road and bridge work.

By and large, none of the options ever sound too good to me – or most others. Few people are excited about the possibility of paying more fuel taxes, higher fees or tolls.

While some states use these talks for background on formulating opinions on how they see fit to tackle pressing issues during the next regular session, others take the step to prepare legislation for consideration once the floor opens early the coming year.

This summer is shaping up no differently. So far, the usual suspects again have reared their heads. Some states are calling for fuel tax increases that range anywhere from a few cents to nearly a quarter. At the same time, other states say charging more at the pump isn’t the answer. Another possible solution: tolls.

So, while there might not be many states in active session from now until the end of the year, there still are a plethora of legislatures that will fill their time looking at potential methods to pay for all the needed projects to keep traffic, and commerce, moving.

There’s no reason to believe these trends will slow anytime soon. I guess that means I won’t have any trouble staying busy.