Let’s see the money before getting excited federal bridge, highway plan

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 5/15/19

In a rare bipartisan announcement, President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer came out of a meeting in agreement. Well, they announced the easy part. They …

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Let’s see the money before getting excited federal bridge, highway plan


In a rare bipartisan announcement, President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer came out of a meeting in agreement.

Well, they announced the easy part.

They announced an agreement on a $2 trillion plan to fund infrastructure repairs and replacements involving highways, bridges, provide clean water and extend broad band coverage. It certainly sounds encouraging for them to finally address the nation’s crumpling road and bridge system.

But wait. Hold the presses. Where is the funding for this ambitious plan?

Show me the money

The President committed to coming up with a proposed funding plan and the three of them will meet again in three weeks (roughly May 22nd). So, the ball is in President Trump’s court to develop such a plan.

And as usual, the devil is in the details.

The federal gasoline tax, which stands at 18.3 cents per gallon, has not been increased since 1993. Furthermore, Schumer indicated that Trump did not rule out tax increases to fund the package. A key factor in the spending/funding plan will be how many years that $2 trillion is meant to cover. If Congress were to double the federal gasoline tax — a big bite on Americans’ pocketbooks — it would not begin to cover the cost of the announced plan.

So, it will be most interesting to see what Trump brings to the table later this month. It should be noted that top business groups and labor unions support a gasoline tax increase. And, of course, immediately following the bipartisan announcement, some Republicans were speaking against the plan.

Potential local control of minimum hourly wages

Our State Legislature changed a lot of things in the four month session which just ended on May 3rd.

One of them which has NOT yet been signed by Governor Polis is authorization for cities and counties to adjust the minimum hourly wage beyond the state mandated amount within their respective jurisdictions. Currently, the minimum hourly wage is $11.10 per hour and is set to top-out at $12 per hour in 2020. The thrust of the legislation is to address the needs of the people in different jurisdictions.

Something to think about

The bill recites the need to “. ensure that workers in Colorado can support themselves and their families which benefits the larger economy and well-being of the state.”

Local governing bodies of both cities and counties would be able to raise the minimum hourly wage above the state amount when local governments determine that such laws are in the best interest of their jurisdiction.

While this sounds good on the surface, can you imagine the mess that it could cause if cities and counties would get into a bidding war over raising the hourly amount? Plus, there is an administrative overhead expense to administer and enforce wage laws.

That is yet another program for local governments to absorb in their general fund expenses.

A regional approach on setting hourly wages would work

Just in the Denver metro area alone, there are approximately 28 municipalities, two city/counties and five counties.

Let’s say that the available labor pool gets so tight for restaurants, banks, convenience stores and retail clerks that local businesses appeal to their city council or board of county commissioners to raise the hourly minimum to attract more applicants to that particular town or city or county.

You know what would happen next: The next group of business people in an adjacent town, city or county would do the same thing seeking help from their governing body. Before you know it, you have a myriad of hourly wages and the various city councils and commissioners canceling out each other’s effort.

Now, looking at this new local power from a regional basis such as the Western Slope or Eastern Plains, I can see where there is merit in it. For example, the ski areas in Colorado would represent a logical grouping where they could all agree on an hourly wage highger than the state level. Another possibility would be a regional part of the Eastern Plains towns and counties.

Which city will be first?

I don’t see a bunch of city councils or boards of county commissioners dashing off to implement higher hourly wages. It’s fine to raise wages, which I support on a statewide basis, but there are consequences. The businesses have to absorb the increased overhead and then their customers are faced with paying higher prices for restaurant meals, convenience store items, banking service fees etc. It will be interesting to see how many local governments will take advantage of this opportunity if the governor signs it. Who will be the first, Boulder, Denver or East Tin Cup?

Let’s hear from Robert Mueller himself

The whole scene is tiresome. We have Attorney General William Barr’s stunts and mischaracterizing the Mueller Report, the White House blocking all of Trump’s key staff including former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying before Congress as well as all the speculation on what Special Counsel Robert Mueller meant in the redacted investigation report on President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.

Instead of learning about these possible obstruction incidents via a carefully filtered four page summary of the Mueller report by AG Barr, let’s hear it “front and center” from the author of the report. Let’s quit playing games and simply have Mueller come before the House Judicial Committee soon and lay it out.

Mueller laid out ten possible obstruction “situations” involving the President. Let’s find out once and for all if any of these are worthy of further discussion and possible prosecution. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of all of this jockeying around by the Attorney General, the White House and the Democrat-controlled House Judicial Committee.

Americans have a right to know.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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