OOIDA: Keep an eye on cash-strapped states

| 3/6/2009

Desperate times can lead to desperate measures, so it’s important to keep an eye on cash-strapped states as they prepare budgets and pass laws leading into next fiscal year that begins July 1.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are encouraging members to stay informed and stay involved to protect the trucking industry from becoming more of a “cash cow” than it already is.

“We’re already seeing states and communities being creative or resourceful in finding ways to drum up cash.” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line. “These are unfortunate realities of society, and they’re also things that we need to be trying to keep an eye on as much as possible.”

A report released in mid-February by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that 46 states are facing budget shortfalls heading into the July 1 fiscal year.

Study researchers said state shortfalls could total $350 billion during the next two fiscal years.

“As a result, states have three primary actions they can take during a fiscal crisis: They can draw down available reserves, they can cut expenditures, or they can raise taxes,” study researchers stated.

Researchers noted that states have already dipped into reserves and most have cut back on costs and services. That leaves further spending cuts and tax increases to balance their budgets during the next few years.

Spencer says truckers should stay informed and involved with what their lawmakers are doing at budget time, particularly because highway budgets have been continually raided over the years to bail out other areas.

“It varies from state to state how highway dollars captured and spent. We’d like to think they all go to highways, but often times they clearly don’t,” Spencer said.

“Lawmakers look for the path of least resistance, and it’s best if they know about any resistance ahead of time. It’s kind of like that lawmaker in Illinois that proposed doubling the state registration fees. If he would have talked to any truckers prior to introducing that legislation, he would have had second thoughts. That is a bite too big for anyone to actually take seriously.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer

Editor’s note: Check out the state Legislative Watch on the OOIDA and Land Line Web sites to keep track of how your state legislature is addressing budget concerns in your state.