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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

IDOT Savings, Fuel Tax and Pericles

Monday, February 6, 2012

With bypass surgeries, new knees, prostate cancer, and diabetes, he'd become half blind. That darn medication leaves him dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. He can't remember whether it is Tuesday or Friday but he says, "Thank God, I can still drive!"

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The Iowa State Highway Commission was established in 1904 at Iowa State College, and later evolved into the Iowa Department of Transportation of today. Recently, at Governor Branstad's urging, the IDOT came up with fifty million in savings to temporarily plug the gap in road and bridge repairs. Beyond the fact that some of the "savings" need a lot of explanation, isn't it interesting that when push comes to shove, bureaucrats can usually find savings!

Everyone has an opinion about a potential fuel tax increase, but any tax increase in an election year is difficult. A bill with delayed, gradual increases could happen if leadership wants to start the ball rolling. Assistant leaders are expected to fall in line, and both R's and D's have members in "safe" districts who could vote for slavery and prohibition (well, no, not prohibition) and still be reelected. After counting those votes, leaders "arm-twist" a few more, with the majority party furnishing at least one more than half of their caucus.

Add a tacit agreement not to hammer your opponents with this issue in the next election and you have a recipe for a tax increase. When, not if, Iowa's fuel tax is increased, the existing system needs revision, and should take into account the more fuel efficient vehicles of today.

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The controversy that resulted from counting errors in the Iowa Caucus vote caused Republican State Chairman Matt Strawn to resign. That is unfortunate, for he has done a very good job. I have some suggestions, for his successor, to improve the caucus voting procedure. Each County should be required to furnish one or more voting machines, and one person to supervise, at each precinct. The political parties would reimburse the minimal cost to the County. The vote would be accurate, and timely. Also, there is no reason to wait two weeks to certify the vote.

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Neither party's state platform is representative of the party, and certainly not of the state. I have never known a Legislator who knows every plank, and very few who can support the majority of the planks activists have saddled them with. So, Republicans at least, lets require the platform at each precinct caucus to be decided before the presidential preference vote is taken. There were nearly 300 people at my caucus this January, but 90% of them bailed out after the vote. This year, as usual, fewer than 30 people remained to discuss which platform planks should be forwarded to the County Convention. Those remaining often have a sharp, and extreme, axe to grind.

One example that passed our caucus this year would require legislation to allow anyone to sell un-inspected, un-regulated raw milk. Those with such narrow personal agendas often become delegates to the County Convention, then eventually on to the State. While I congratulate those activists for their persistence, their views do not represent the majority of Iowa Republicans. Of course the real offenders are those who think their job is done after casting their vote for a presidential candidate.

I assume the Democrats have similar problems, for their platform is equally bizarre.

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Newt Gingrich has turned into a Grinch and Ron Paul has become a (good) standup comedian. Out of context or not, Mitt Romney needs to engage brain before opening mouth. "Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!" (Pericles (430 B.C.)

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In Canberra, Australia four guys had some kinda fun with a mobile speed camera van, or so goes the Internet story. Three of the group approached the van and distracted the operator by asking a series of questions like how the equipment worked, and how many cars the operator could catch in a day. At the same time the fourth guy quietly unscrewed the "numberplate" (license plate) from the van.

The friends went home, put the numberplate on their car and drove through the camera's radar at a high speed - 17 times. The automated billing system issued 17 speeding tickets to itself! Snopes says that, like a lot of stuff on the internet, it is just a good story. I fell for it.

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"I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle." (Winston Churchill)

Don Paulin, 2carpenterdon@gmail.com, 7557 30th Av, Norwalk, IA 50211 - 515-201-7236

By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That


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