McCain-Clinton Gas Tax Plan to Cost California 23,107 Jobs?4 min read

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That’s the claim from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, which has a study showing how the gas tax cut will affect jobs in each state.

The assumption the AR&BTA; is using is that the tax cut would blow a $9 billion hole in the federal transportation budget. Based on FY 07-08 expenditures CA’s share of that would be $664,406,924. The association then estimates that 23,107 jobs would be lost here in California – roughly equivalent to the proposed school layoffs – over the next three years.

No wonder then that local transportation agencies across the state are denouncing this foolish proposal. From Santa Cruz:

“”It would deplete an already oversubscribed highway trust fund, making a bad situation worse,” commission Executive Director George Dondero said. “We’re trying to get the government to generate more money for transportation, not less.”

“Dondero said he didn’t know how much the county could lose, just that “future projects would have to wait.”

“Critics of the gas-tax break, including Clinton opponent Barack Obama, say it would have little impact on consumers, saving the average driver an estimated $30 over the course of the summer, and instead create a $10 billion gap in the federal highway trust fund, used for highway construction and maintenance.

“Calling the proposal an “election pandering” tactic, commissioner and county Supervisor Ellen Pirie said it would benefit oil companies.

“”There will be a lot of harm in terms of infrastructure projects and maintenance people want taken care of,” Pirie said. “It would be great if there were a way to reduce the price of gas. I know a lot of people are struggling with this, but I don’t think [the tax break] is an effective way to do this.””

Thanks to Daily Kos diarist Jimmy Crackcorn you can see just how much this pander will be worth to you with an online calculator. Plugging in my expected summer driving (75 mi per week) and car mileage (33 mpg) I get…$16!

Wow. A whopping $16. That’s maybe a dollar a week. And at the low, low cost of 23,107 jobs in our state during a recession and stalled transportation projects that if completed would help drivers save on gas for years to come. Of course, the lost jobs have a ripple effect on both state budgets (lost income tax revenue, lost sales tax revenue) and the state economy.

The real solution is, as I explained at my high speed rail blog last night, investment in things like trains. Thank god someone in this race is talking about that:

The irony is with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service. One of the things I have been talking about for awhile is high speed rail connecting all of these Midwest cities — Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis. They are not that far away from each other. Because of how big of a hassle airlines are now. There are a lot of people if they had the choice, it takes you just about as much time if you had high speed rail to go the airport, park, take your shoes off.

“This is something that we should be talking about a lot more. We are going to be having a lot of conversations this summer about gas prices. And it is a perfect time to start talk about why we don’t have better rail service. We are the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t have high speed rail. We just don’t have it. And it works on the Northeast corridor. They would rather go from New York to Washington by train than they would by plane. It is a lot more reliable and it is a good way for us to start reducing how much gas we are using. It is a good story to tell.”

That was Barack Obama, giving impromptu remarks to an Indiana couple a few days ago.

Robert Cruickshank is a historian, activist, and teacher living in Monterey. He is a contributing editor at Calitics.com and works for the Courage Campaign, in addition to teaching political science at Monterey Peninsula College. Currently he is completing his Ph.D. dissertation in US history, on progressive politics in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s. A native Californian, he was raised in Orange County and educated at UC Berkeley.

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