September 18, 2005
Senator Chafee: Is This How You Define Fiscal Conservatism?
Andrew has done a tremendous service by publishing the actual highway bill "benefits" to Rhode Island: $150 million of projects spread around the state.
Senator Chafee voted for the highway bill. Since one of his key campaign positions is fiscal conservatism, I thought it might be useful to do some math on the true cost of those state projects to Rhode Islanders.
The true cost of the highway bill projects is the hidden cost effect of the highway bill that our elected officials will never talk about: Rhode Island residents are paying a pro rata cost for every single project across the entire United States as the price for getting their highway bill projects.
Let's make some simplifying assumptions that have the effect of changing the precise numbers without changing the conclusion. Assume the number of taxpayers as a percentage of the total population is roughly the same across the fifty states. This allows us to simplify the analysis by using the population of the USA and of Rhode Island. Assume there are 1 million residents in Rhode Island. The highway bill was for $286 billion. Since there are just under 300 million Americans, the highway bill spends about $1,000 per American.
Therefore, the tax burden for Rhode Islanders from the highway bill equals roughly $1 billion ($1,000 per resident x 1 million state residents).
That $1 billion bought us $150 million of special projects. I am sure there are some hidden nuances in that pork-laden bill that will accrue to the benefit of Rhode Islanders. But, even if there are, remember there would have to be $850 million of nuances (a multiple of 5.67) just to get to tax payment breakeven for Rhode Island residents.
So, during the upcoming campaign, when Senator Chafee takes a photo opportunity with one of the highway bill projects and touts how he brought home the bacon for us, remember that Rhode Island residents will be paying as much as $6.67 per person in extra taxes for every $1 of projects proudly boasted about by Chafee.
Senator Chafee, is this how you define fiscal conservatism?
Since my family has five members, we are paying roughly $33 in extra taxes for that $1 of benefit. I can assure you that is not our definition of fiscal conservatism.
[You can read more about the highway bill here: