Tucked within the infrastructure bill is an interesting pilot program - but one that does, ultimately, make sense.
However, stacking it within a bloated bill that is being steamrolled through congress (and also being held hostage by President Joe Biden and the debt ceiling versus budget fiasco) isn't a good look at all for democrats who have - roughly - $5 trillion on the line between budget and infrastructure spending.
The program itself is being touted as a 'new tax' on the number of miles an individual drives. Unfortunately for most people who'd like to torpedo the bill, that's not accurate. The pilot program is an opt-in agency which allows certain counties across the country to expirement with a cost-per-mile tax on electric vehicles.
The purpose? To work through just how many electric cars are currently on the road, how many miles they drive, and what tax rate would be fair to make sure that infrastructure funding could remain intact.
For those who are confused by the premise, for most states a gas tax funds infrastructure needs. Here in Louisiana, we are no strangers to the gas tax and infrastructure woes. In fact, there's some really appropriate data that would suggest Louisiana might want to participate (should the legislation be passed) because the Bayou is very, very behind in infrastructure funding - to the tune of $2 billion (if including mega projects, not maintenance).
With vehicles being required (both legislatively and in the market) to be more fuel efficient, and gas taxes clearly not going the distance - at least in Louisiana - the program seems to remove the economic principle of 'free riders' - meaning those who drive electric vehicles are, to a certain degree, doing so freely without fair contribution to infrastructure projects.
But, as with most things political these days, the program has been mahred by controversy - most of which is the democrats who proposed it own doing.
Why was something so important wedged into a controversial bill? What's in the language they don't want you to know? Why is there an 'all-or-nothing' approach from the White House?
Most importantly - why does the US still deal in omnibus bills, when technology could easily allow legislation to be handled piece-by-piece?
The lack of answers to these questions have allowed the purpose of the bill to be perverted for political gain, which is unsurprising these days.
But the thrust of the bill remains true, and something the United States cannot give up on. With electric vehicles becoming more affordable (Teesla has started releasing their mid-size sedan) and major logistics companies moving trucking to all-electric, it won't be long before lawmakers are looking around wondering 'where's all the money for roads?'
But how can we fix the problem at hand?
The biggest stride the country's legislative system could take, at the federal level, is to do away with omnibus bills - that is, legislation that has multiple proposals built in, some of which are related and, sometimes, they aren't.
If federal lawmakers could make that leap, there would be no more hiding proposals like this one deep inside a bill's wording. There would be no holding proposals hostage by the White House.
And, frankly, it would be easier to follow the legislative process. No more 2200 page bills dropped at the 11th hour that even those who work in Washington have a hard time sifting through before the deadline, much less the standard citizen.
Drop the omnibus bills - they're bad for the country, and it's a good way to get perverted legislation passed without the ability to discuss, amend, and clean.
This is America in 2021, we're more than capable of making this happen.